October 04, 2019 13:50:24
The head of the Lawyer X royal commission has refused to excuse former gangland barrister-turned-police informer Nicola Gobbo from giving evidence to the inquiry despite her “deteriorating” mental state.
- Commissioner Margaret McMurdo said she accepted Ms Gobbo was suffering from several medical conditions, but these were not a reasonable excuse for failing to give evidence
- The commission will allow Ms Gobbo to give evidence in two-hour sessions by phone
- Ms McMurdo gave Ms Gobbo a deadline of November to provide a sworn statement to the inquiry
Ms Gobbo is at the centre of the legal scandal that has already led to one murder conviction being quashed, but has not yet given evidence to the royal commission set up to examine her use as a human source.
The former defence barrister, also known as Informant 3838, has said she is too sick to be questioned at the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants, but commissioner Margaret McMurdo today refused to excuse her from giving evidence, despite fresh medical reports being provided to the inquiry.
The medical reports reveal Ms Gobbo’s “intellectual and psychological functioning” is “deteriorating”, her mental state is precarious and she is frightened.
A second psychiatrist started treating Ms Gobbo in April when she was in “a vicious cycle of despair and emotional paralysis” and did not believe her mental state was curable.
A psychiatric report dated September 1 this year stated that she had not improved in the past six months and was not responding to medication.
Commissioner McMurdo said she was inclined to accept Ms Gobbo was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a major depression disorder, acute stress and anxiety but did not believe it prevented her from giving evidence in the future.
“On the material presently before me I am inclined to accept that Ms Gobbo is probably suffering from those conditions, but I’m not presently persuaded she has demonstrated a reasonable excuse for failing to attend before this royal commission, which will be hearing evidence for the greater part of this calendar year,” she said.
Special arrangements have been put in place to allow Ms Gobbo to evidence by phone, due to the well known and highly publicised risks to her life.
Ms McMurdo said the royal commission could take Ms Gobbo’s evidence “in short bursts of two hours to accommodate her medical condition, and also has the power to significantly limit the length and nature of cross-examination”.
She ordered Ms Gobbo to provide a sworn statement to the inquiry.
Noting Ms Gobbo’s legal representation was being provided “at community expense”, Ms McMurdo has given her until November to submit the statement.
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 more than 50 police witnesses since January.
Her unwillingness to take the stand has severely limited scrutiny of any possible involvement or knowledge Ms Gobbo had in gangland offences, as well as information she passed on to police handlers.
Ms Gobbo was registered as a human source in 1995, again in 1999, and for a third time from 2005 to 2009.
She has said she was motivated by altruism to help police take down Mokbel’s drug cartel, 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 has 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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October 04, 2019 12:02:40
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