Mr Drummond, the special prosecutor appointed by the Queensland government to investigate crooked cops exposed by the Fitzgerald royal commission, said investigations into police implicated in the Lawyer X scandal should also be at “arm’s length” from Victoria’s peak anti-corruption agency, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).
IBAC examined the Lawyer X saga five years ago and did not find evidence of criminal behaviour on the part of any current or former police.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien last week asked Attorney-General Jill Hennessy in Parliament whether she would follow the Queensland path and commit to establishing a special prosecutor.
Ms Hennessy said the government would await the recommendations of the royal commission.
Ms Gobbo, a former defence barrister, was a registered police informer who ratted on her own clients. Counsel assisting the royal commission has invited Commissioner McMurdo to find that Ms Gobbo’s police handlers and senior officers who supervised their work may have engaged in criminal conduct. Potential offences included misconduct in public office and conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Both are punishable by jail.
Commissioner McMurdo has decided not to name any current or former police implicated in criminal conduct, noting this could have a prejudicial impact on future legal proceedings.
It remains unclear, in the absence of the establishment of a special prosecutor and supporting taskforce, how information gathered by the royal commission can be developed into admissible evidence to support criminal charges.
Testimony provided to a royal commission cannot be used against that witness in criminal proceedings.
Former IBAC commissioner Stephen Bryan said the anti-corruption body was the “logical entity” to investigate police, but it would need more resources.
“Bearing in mind the vastness of evidence gathered to date and complexity of the issues involved, any such task would be substantial and therefore necessitate adequate special funding for IBAC by the Victorian government,” he told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
IBAC Commissioner Robert Redlich, QC, submitted to the royal commission that to investigate police implicated in the scandal, it would require a government referral, additional support and, potentially, expanded powers.
“As I have publicly acknowledged in the past, IBAC lacks some of the necessary powers it should have to properly investigate complaints received against police officers, some of which affect its ability to gather admissible evidence,” he said.
“It is in fact the only commission throughout Australia whose investigators do not have the same powers as a police officer.”
Mr Redlich noted that current and former police at the centre of the Lawyer X scandal were previously examined by IBAC during the 2015 inquiry led by former Victorian Supreme Court judge Murray Kellam.
Mr Drummond said a special prosecutor would require its own taskforce and needed to be independent of “political direction”. He contrasted this to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who by law is “responsible to the Attorney-General for the due performance or his or her functions”.
DPP Kerri Judd, QC, rejected this. “Contrary to the statements in Mr Drummond, QC’s, submissions, the functions of the Director of Public Prosecutions are, and have always been, carried out independently of Victoria Police and the Attorney-General of Victoria,” she said.
Mr Drummond said the Andrews government had “benefited politically” from its relationship with Victoria Police, which did not pursue charges against anyone involved in the “Red Shirts” scandal involving Labor MP staffers doing campaign work.
“There should not be room for any perception that decisions whether any serving or former Victoria police [officers] should be prosecuted may be subject to political influence keen to ensure continuing police support,” he submitted.
Commissioner McMurdo is due to hand down her findings on 30 November.
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Chip Le Grand is The Age’s chief reporter. He writes about crime, sport and national affairs, with a particular focus on Melbourne.