Informant Could Trigger Victorian Class Action From Gangland Crooks
A senior Melbourne barrister says Victoria should prepare to be sued by some of the state's worst gangland crooks who have learned their lawyer also acted as a police informant.
Philip Dunn QC said he feels ashamed to be part of the state's legal system, following the shocking revelations which have sparked national outcry and a royal commission.
He warned the fallout could cost the state millions of dollars and take years to resolve.
The informant lawyer, who cannot be named but was known as 3838, represented numerous high-profile figures, including drug lord Tony Mokbel.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has already written to 20 people about their convictions - and more cases dating from 2005 to 2009, when she acted as an informant, are being assessed.
It could open the door for criminals to appeal their convictions.
"It's going to spiral into a lot more. The Victorian government better brace itself for a class action, made worse by the fact the police sat on this for a number of years," Dunn told AAP.
The barrister said 3838 was viewed as a gangland lawyer who had become close to some clients, but she was not suspected of working with police at the time.
"It's like a rotten maggot in the apple of justice and it's just wrong," Dunn said, expressing fears it could damage public confidence in the courts and trust in the police.
"It actually makes me feel ashamed to be part of the system that produced this."
The Law Council of Australia said the actions of the lawyer were unethical and concerning.
"A lawyer purporting to act as counsel for the convicted person, while also covertly informing against them, is a fundamental breach of a lawyer's duties to the court," president Morry Bailes said.
Former homicide detective and police union boss Ron Iddles said 10 to 15 "very senior police" would have known what was happening, and warned force bosses in 2009 the situation could trigger a royal commission.
"It was always going to come out, I think, and be a mess," he told 3AW.
Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton was at the time part of a steering committee overseeing several operations that could have used the lawyer in question.
Peter Faris QC, former chairman of the National Crime Authority, represented Mokbel after the supergrass lawyer, and told ABC radio on Tuesday Ashton should step aside.
But the police chief maintained the confidence of the government.
The extent of what was known by police will be a focus of the $7.5 million royal commission announced by the Victorian government.
The probe will be headed by two interstate commissioners to prevent conflicts of interest, and Mr Ashton and now-Supreme Court justices might have to give evidence, Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said.