Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Lawyer X: Police corruption exposed

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ending years of speculation, gangland lawyer Nicola Gobbo has been revealed as Lawyer X. Also known as Informer 3838, Gobbo gave police information on the clients she was defending in what the High Court has called an “appalling breach”.

While Gobbo’s identity was an open secret over the last 5 years, Victoria Police spent millions to keep her identity hidden from the public. Gobbo’s information is thought to have resulted in almost 400 convictions.

Following the revelations, at least 22 of her former clients were informed that their convictions may have been tainted, and they have the right to appeal.

Gobbo isn’t just any run of the mill lawyer, she comes from a prominent legal family. Her uncle is former Victorian Supreme Court judge, Sir James Gobbo, who went on to become governor of Victoria.

In 1993, she was charged with drug trafficking, but these charges were dropped and two years later she became a registered informer. It’s clear that there’s one set of rules for people with the right connections and another for everyone else.

In addition to being paid by her clients, whose right to confidentiality and a fair trial she violated, Gobbo was paid by the police for her information.

The police have tried to justify their actions by saying that the gangland wars were desperate times that necessitated desperate measures. Now that we know that Gobbo was an informer long before then, this line of argument just doesn’t hold up.

And the fact that Victoria Police felt they were unable to secure gangland convictions without resorting to corruption speaks volumes about the way the police force operates.

It has come out that in addition to Gobbo others in the legal profession have also been used as informers. This raises a question about how far all this goes. How many more people have not had the right to fair representation?

There is a very real possibility that there are innocent people sitting in prison, wrongfully convicted due to this corruption. Convictions found to be tainted must be quashed, and if necessary reheard. Compensation should be paid to all innocent victims.

Any police officers found to have been involved in corruption should be sacked while any legal professionals found to have breached the rules should be banned from practicing.

A royal commission into all this has now been called, but there is little confidence that it will do much to address the systemic problem of police corruption.

The establishment would have us believe that the police and other state institutions generally exist to serve the best interests of the public and “stand above” politics. We are also told that the justice system is an independent and fair body, separate to the police and the government.

This sordid affair shows that this is not the case at all. It has exposed just how connected all arms of the state are. It is clear that directions for the use of lawyers as informers must have come from the upper echelons of Victoria Police.

This is why the police have tried to cover it up. They know that by exposing the sheer scale of corruption, the functioning of not just the justice system, but society as a whole, is thrown into question.

This latest scandal is not an anomaly, but rather an expression of the capitalist system functioning as intended. The legal system has been designed under this unequal system, where a super-rich minority rule over the rest of us.

In order to maintain power, this minority rely on what socialists call the repressive apparatus of the state. The different arms of the capitalist state – the courts, parliament and armed forces – are set up specifically with this in mind. They are not fair or balanced.

Socialists say that the entire justice system is in need of a major overhaul. We should fight for democratic reforms to the legal system today, but they must be linked to the need to fight for a society that does away with class rule.

To start with, police must be under the democratic control of the community. If they are really there to protect and serve us all, then the tops of the police force should be elected by the majority of people. Further, instead of judges being appointed from within the top layers of society, they too should be elected by the majority. There should be the right of immediate recall for all elected public officials.

Reforms like this would help to limit the type of corruption that we have seen with the Gobbo case, but it is not possible for society to be entirely rid of corruption under capitalism. This will only be possible when all aspects of society are democratically owned and controlled by the majority.

By Kat Galea


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