Letter to The Editor,
Wrongful Convictions Report
Recent developments in Victoria have thrown wide open the question of wrongful convictions. We learn [Sarah Marsh – The Guardian: 27 July 2019] that 40 cases may have been tainted by involvement of police informer Nicola Gobbo. [ https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jul/26/lawyer-x-case-australian-criminals-line-up-to-appeal-convictions ]
On 26 July 2019, Faruk Orman was released from prison, because of a “substantial miscarriage of justice” caused by (as The Guardian describes her): his double-agent lawyer Nicola Gobbo, also known as Lawyer X.
The Guardian [https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jul/26/faruk-orman-released-after-gangland-conviction-quashed-over-lawyer-x-scandal] also tells us that she is alleged to have encouraged a key witness, whose evidence was central to securing Orman’s conviction, to talk to police.
In doing so, she is seen to have breached client confidentiality. So too with a number of others – e.g. Tony Mokbel – who have been convicted. [https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/dec/03/victoria-calls-royal-commission-into-underworld-lawyer-scandal ]
I note that Orman, having served 12 out of a 20 year sentence, will not face retrial, as the Victorian DPP had said that it would be unjust to demand a retrial. Orman would have been eligible for parole in two years time.
Meanwhile, in Tasmania, Susan Neill-Fraser remains in prison. It is now 10 years since her arrest and since her being taken into custody (20 Aug. 2009) before her subsequent trial and conviction.
Even so, following the recent evidence of Meaghan Vass, and subsequently being given leave to make a second appeal, Neill-Fraser remains behind bars until such time as her appeal takes place.
If the appeal succeeds, will she be released or will she have to have a retrial? Would the release of Orman serve as some sort of precedent?
In the wake of the Lawyer X revelations, Victoria has a Royal Commission underway. In my view, a Commission of Inquiry (Tasmania’s equivalent to a Royal Commission) into the circumstances under which Neill-Fraser has been imprisoned is long overdue.