September 20, 2019 16:50:34
The former gangland lawyer-turned-police informer at the centre of a scandal embroiling the Victorian legal system is unlikely to front the royal commission into her use, due to “mental anguish”.
- The inquiry heard Ms Gobbo suffers from severe pain and stress
- She risks up to two years’ jail by not fronting the royal commission
- The inquiry has previously heard Ms Gobbo discussed feigning medical issues to avoid court in the past
Nicola Gobbo, who is also known as Lawyer X or Informant 3838, was served with a notice to appear before the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants in February.
The inquiry heard she previously expressed a willingness to assist but her lawyer informed the inquiry this morning Ms Gobbo was unable to appear in person due to health issues.
Commissioner Margaret McMurdo has questioned whether Ms Gobbo was feigning mental and physical illness to avoid giving evidence under oath.
Ms Gobbo’s barrister Rish Nathwani told the commission his client was suffering mental anguish, and there were “physical, mental and situational” impediments to her giving evidence.
Several confidential medical reports from a pain specialist, psychologist and a psychiatrist dating back to 2008 were tendered to the commission.
The inquiry heard Ms Gobbo suffers from a severe stress disorder, chronic headaches and moderate-to-severe pain that affected her concentration.
Mr Nathwani stated the well documented risks to her safety had exacerbated her health problems.
“They are such that they are causing, as I’ve indicated, mental anguish to Ms Gobbo, coupled with anguish to others associated to her,” he said.
Mr Nathwani said it was hoped she would one day be in a position to give evidence — but it was unlikely.
“I cannot see it occurring with the present issues in relation to security existing as they do,” he said.
Commissioner McMurdo agreed the security issues were not likely to change “in the foreseeable future…certainly not in the life of this commission”.
Ms McMurdo ordered Ms Gobbo to provide further medical reports and information as to “if and when she can give evidence” by next month.
Ms Gobbo’s medical specialists will be provided a transcript from the inquiry which indicated Ms Gobbo had discussed being willing to feign illness to put off court hearings.
Ms McMurdo was referring to evidence of a conversation Ms Gobbo had with her handlers, Mr Smith and Mr Green, when she was hoping to adjourn a court hearing by saying she was sick.
Mr Smith: “I’m saying, with your medical history and you’re in hospital again they’ll assume, ‘oh, that she’s sick’.”
Ms Gobbo: “That’s right.”
Mr Smith: “How are you going to make the doctor admit you?”
Ms Gobbo: “I’ve had a stroke.”
Mr Green: “Chest pain would be enough to … would it?”
Ms Gobbo: “I reckon a headache. I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that part of it yet.”
Counsel assisting the royal commission, Chris Winneke QC, said that Ms Gobbo had been examined during three lengthy phone calls in March, April and June, but these had not been under oath.
Failure to comply with the commission is a criminal offence, carrying a maximum penalty of two years’ jail.
What Ms Gobbo did to help police and how she was managed has been the focus of questioning of about 50 police witnesses over 61 days of hearings.
Her unwillingness to take the stand severely limits scrutiny of any possible involvement or knowledge Ms Gobbo had in gangland offences, as well as information she passed on to police handlers.
Gobbo was police’s ‘most intense’ human source
Evidence before the commission includes reports she broke into the chambers of a fellow barrister and altered more than a dozen statements of a key gangland witness.
If Ms Gobbo does not appear, Victoria Police’s evidence about the extent to which she discussed the ethical issues and conflicts of interest involving her use will go unchallenged, as will the motivation behind what has been described as the “almost hyperactive” help she provided to police.
Superintendent Mark Porter told the hearing yesterday: “She was the most intense human source we had registered.”
“Contacting handlers all hours of the day and night, seven days a week,” he said.
In muffled secret recording played to the commission, Ms Gobbo told one handler of the “blurred lines” of her legal obligations to a gangland client she was helping them catch.
In a 2006 conversation she told her handler, known as Mr Fox, “the general ethics of all of this is f***ed”.
Ms Gobbo was registered as a human source in 1995, again in 1999, and for a third time from 2005 to 2009.
She previously stated she provided police years of “immense assistance” motivated by altruism and to free herself of the Mokbel clan.
“My motivation in assisting police was not for self-gain, but was rather borne from the frustration of being aware of prolific large commercial drug trafficking, importations of massive quantities of drugs, murders, bashings, perverting the course of justice, huge money laundering and other serious offences all being committed without any serious inroads being made by police,” she stated in a 2014 letter to Victoria Police.
But that explanation was restricted to her role as a human source during the gangland war.
She first started helping police after her arrest over drug charges in 1993.
The inquiry heard she later went on to provide information to police on the alleged activities of other solicitors, including money laundering and false invoicing.
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September 20, 2019 10:56:25
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