Establishment of the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants

On 3 December 2018, the Premier of Victoria, the Honourable Daniel Andrews MP, announced that the Victorian Government would establish a Royal Commission to independently inquire into Victoria Police’s recruitment and management of a class of informants.

The announcement followed decisions of the High Court of Australia, the Victorian Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Victoria (1) (2), regarding a former criminal defence barrister recruited by Victoria Police as an informant.

On 13 December 2018, the Governor of Victoria, Her Excellency the Honourable Linda Dessau AC, and the Premier of Victoria signed Letters Patent appointing the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC as Chair of the Commission and Malcolm Hyde AO APM as a Commissioner.

In early February 2019 Commissioner Hyde resigned.  On 7 February 2019, the Honourable Linda Dessau AC issued amendments to the letters patent to reflect Commissioner Hyde’s resignation and changes to the scope of the Commission's inquiry.

As part of its inquiry, the Royal Commission will examine the number of, and extent to which, cases may have been affected by the conduct of Ms Nicola Gobbo, a criminal defence barrister who was, at various times between 1 January 1995 and 13 January 2009, acting as a police informant with Victoria Police.  She was referred to as 'EF' in court cases, informant '3838' and other informant numbers by Victoria Police, and was often referred to as 'Lawyer X' in the media. 

In addition, the Commission will examine the adequacy and effectiveness of Victoria Police’s current processes for disclosures about recruiting, handling and managing human sources who are subject to legal obligations of confidentiality or privilege, including any informants who come to the Commission’s attention during its inquiry.   The Commission will also examine the use of such human source information in the broader criminal justice system, including whether these procedures should be used, and if so, how they can be best implemented in the future. For more detailed information, refer to the Commission’s terms of reference.

The Commission will examine the issues raised in its terms of reference by receiving written submissions, hearing evidence publicly and closed/in-camera (where necessary), conducting its own investigations, and consulting with experts and key stakeholders.

Submitters and potential witnesses could include past or present police officers or government and other employees and contractors.

It is an offence under s51of theInquiries Act 2014 to take detrimental action against an employee because they have given information to the Commission. As a purpose of this Commission is to restore confidence in the criminal justice system, it would be contrary to community expectations for an organisation or employer to discourage a potential witness or submitter from providing information. If anyone is concerned about these issues, they should call the Commission on 1800 312 612 and talk to a Commission officer as soon as possible so that steps can be taken to protect their interests.

The Commission is tasked with providing a progress report to the Governor of Victoria on 1 July 2019 and a final report covering all terms of reference by 1 July 2020.  

The Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC

The Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC was President of the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Queensland, from 1998 until her retirement in 2017. In 2015, she was Acting Chief Justice of Queensland.

After graduating in law at the University of Queensland, Commissioner McMurdo was admitted as a barrister in 1976 and worked in that capacity in the Public Defender’s Office. She was an Assistant Public Defender from 1978 until 1989 when she commenced private practice.  

She was a judge of the District Court of Queensland from 1991 until 1998 and, from 1993, additionally held a commission as a Children’s Court Judge in Queensland.  

Commissioner McMurdo was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2007 for service to the law and judicial administration in Queensland.

Commissioner McMurdo has been the Chair of the Board of Legal Aid Queensland since 2017. She is also patron of Women’s Legal Service (Qld), Caxton Legal Service and LawRight’s Civil Justice Fund.  She is also chair of the Board of the Governors of Queensland Community Foundation.

Reviewed 01 December 2019