Vic gangland criminal convictions in doubt

Going Down Under Lawyer exposed as police informer puts 100s of convictions at risk

Drug lord Tony Mokbel is among at least 20 Victorian criminals whose convictions may be in jeopardy over what Australia's highest court has labelled "appalling" breaches by police and a supergrass lawyer.

Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said police have sought to suppress the matter for the "protection of the lawyer and their family who Victoria Police believed would be murdered if this information was released".

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews meanwhile announced a royal commission into the scandal, saying the public had a "right to know that every part of the justice system acts fairly and lawfully at all times".

"This case touches the highest levels of Victoria Police".

But the High Court, while ruling the lawyer's identity remain secret, said it should be disclosed in the interest of maintaining the integrity of the criminal justice system.

They could then appeal against their convictions, meaning their sentences could be reduced or convictions quashed altogether.

The number of convictions impacted will be established by July, with a mid-year interim report and the commission's work will be completed by December, Andrews said.

He said the commissioner would be appointed and the terms of reference set in the next few weeks.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said the force changed how it managed informants in 2009, so such incidents can not be repeated today.

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The Victorian Government has received assurances from Victoria Police that its practices have changed since the barrister's recruitment as an informant, and an IBAC report in 2015, which inquired into Victoria Police's management of informants, did not find that any unlawful conduct had occurred.

Cabinet approved the establishment of the royal commission on Monday at its first meeting since Labor's re-election.

Andrews said he could not say whether the premier, attorney-general or minister at the time would have known about the informant, but said it was "highly unlikely".

The revelation came after court injunctions were lifted Monday, blowing the lid off one of the biggest legal scandals to hit the country in years and prompting the authorities to immediately announce a public inquiry.

It said it hoped that the circumstances of the case would "never be repeated".

EF's actions were "fundamental and appalling breaches" of her obligations to her clients and the court, while Victoria Police sanctioned "atrocious breaches" of officers' duties, the court reported.

They were finally knocked back by Australia's highest court last month.

As a result, the cases where EF had acted as defense lawyer could have been "corrupted in a manner which debased fundamental premises of the criminal justice system".

Andrews told reporters that he had still had faith Ashton but that a royal commission was necessary to ensure the integrity of the criminal justice system going forward.

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