Royal Commission into the Management of Informants
On Monday, the Victorian Government announced a Royal Commission into the Management of Informants, after the High Court and the Victorian Court of Appeal lifted certain suppression orders in the matters of AB v CD and EF v CD.
As a result of the lifting of the suppression orders, it has been revealed that, during Melbourne’s gangland wars, a member of the Victorian Bar (EF) became a police informer, while acting as counsel in various criminal proceedings. In its reasons for judgment, the High Court described EF’s breaches of duties to her clients and the court as “fundamental and appalling”, and condemned Victoria for having sanctioned “atrocious breaches of the sworn duty of every police officer to discharge all duties imposed on them faithfully and according to law without favour or affection, malice or ill will.”
The Victorian Bar welcomes the government’s decision to call a Royal Commission. It is important for the maintenance of confidence in the administration of justice that the community understand how EF became a police informer, and how information provided by her was used by Victoria Police.
At the same time, it is also important that the public be reassured that Victoria’s 2,100 practising barristers treat their paramount duty to the administration of justice, and their duties to the courts, their clients and colleagues with the utmost seriousness. EF’s conduct was unprecedented. It does not reflect in any way upon the integrity of Victoria’s barristers generally, who have over the course our 135-year history earned a reputation for upholding the highest ethical standards in furtherance of the administration of justice and the interests of our clients.
I have actively sought to make those points to the public, via the media, in the course of the week, including in an opinion piece in the Herald Sun on Tuesday.
Many members have contacted me and the Bar office about this matter in recent days. I remind members and their families who may be distressed by this week’s events that the Bar funds free, independent, confidential counselling from trained consultants who are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Information is available here.
Farewell and thanks to the Law Library Chair: Justice Macaulay
Justice Cameron Macaulay is stepping down after five years as the inaugural Chair of the Law Library of Victoria Committee and six years as Chair of the Supreme Court Library Committee.
On behalf of the Bar, I extend my thanks and gratitude to Macaulay J for his tireless efforts. He has brought to life the vision of a modern, dynamic and relevant library service for all practitioners and judges in Victoria. Earlier this year, the Bar’s Richard Griffith Library became a part of the Law Library of Victoria. That has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the quality of the resources available to all members of the Victorian Bar, including in particular access to the same online services that are available to the judiciary on a 24/7 basis from level 1 of Owen Dixon Chambers East.
The Library’s future is secure with Justice Greg Garde AO RFD taking over as Chair of both committees. Supported by a grant from the Legal Services Board, the Library’s immediate priority is to introduce exclusive content to members via a login section of its website. Watch for news of this development early in the new year.
The Victorian Bar will be represented on the Supreme Court Library Committee and Law Library of Victoria Committee in 2019 by Ian Upjohn CSC QC and Dr Paul Vout. We wish them well in their roles, and look forward to updates from them throughout the year.
A busy week
Behind the scenes this week, I commenced a series of one-on-one meetings with members of Bar Council to discuss the year ahead. I also met with representatives of Victoria Legal Aid.
Throughout the week, members of the executive and I consulted with committee chairs to discuss the composition of Bar Committees next year. Members who have expressed interest in Bar Committees will be contacted in the days following next week’s final Bar Council meeting for the year.
The Christmas season is well and truly underway. Last night I attended a Women Barristers’ Association event to celebrate the ‘Leaps and Bounds’ that women are making in the profession. I have enjoyed a drink or two during the week with some of our new silks and am looking forward to more of the same next week. Tonight, I look forward to relaxing with members at the Vicbar Christmas drinks function in the Peter O’Callaghan QC Gallery. In a difficult week for all members, these are welcome opportunities to reflect and enjoy each other’s company.
On Wednesday 12 December, the profession will welcome Magistrates Alanna Duffy and Timothy Hoare in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court at 9.15am.
Thank you to Wendy Harris QC for representing the Bar at the welcome for Magistrate Randall Kune yesterday. Wendy’s speech can be read here.