NICOLA GOBBO, FORMER BARRISTER: I have been snookered by Victoria Police.
PAUL DALE, FORMER VICTORIA POLICE DETECTIVE: She was the master of manipulation and an incredibly great liar. They had the golden goose. They had the information coming in, but it was information, it was poisonous information and they knew it was poisonous information.
SHANE PATTON, VICTORIA POLICE CHIEF COMMISSIONER: We got this profoundly wrong.
GRAHAM ASHTON, FORMER VICTORIA POLICE CHIEF COMMISSIONER: I’m very, very confident that my conduct in no way, or shape or form was remotely criminal in nature.
FARUK ORMAN: I’ve done 12 years jail for a crime that I didn’t commit.
RACHAEL BROWN, REPORTER: After notorious underworld figure Victor Peirce was gunned down in 2002 street shooting, Victoria Police launched a manhunt.
WENDY PIERCE: Somebody out there must know something.
RACHAEL BROWN: Five years later, Faruk Orman, a man in his early 20s who insisted he didn’t even know Pierce, was charged with his murder.
He hired prominent defence lawyer, Nicola Gobbo to defend the charge while he maintained his innocence.
How did you feel when you heard the jury’s verdict of guilty?
FARUK ORMAN: Probably I had goose bumps. It was like I got hit by a bus to be honest, just shocked and then trying to comfort my mum.
Even after I got convicted, I was still, in effect, trying to convince myself that eventually the truth will come out.
RACHAEL BROWN: He says he later learned his lawyer had been advising how guards could break him in isolation.
FARUK ORMAN: Standing on your neck with a dog in your face in effect, like you think the dogs going to bite your face off.
RACHAEL BROWN: What things happened to you in isolation that hurt the most? … Sorry.
FARUK ORMAN: Terrible things happened in there, I assure you.
RACHAEL BROWN: After 12 years in jail, the Court of Appeal ruled there had been a miscarriage of justice. He walked free. His conviction was quashed.
FARUK ORMAN: It is frightening to be honest with you and everyone should be frightened.
RACHAEL BROWN: What would you like to say to the public now in terms of if they’re wondering whether you were the getaway driver in the murder of Victor Peirce?
FARUK ORMAN: Well, I wasn’t. It is quite clear I wasn’t. I never was and I don’t even know the guy. I have got no incentive for any of this.
RACHAEL BROWN: Others, however, did have incentives.
Later the royal commission would hear Victoria Police wanted Faruk Orman to roll and inform on another gangland identity.
As for Mr Orman’s accuser, he told the royal commission his cooperation with police won him a discounted sentence.
Faruk Orman is now suing for compensation and thinks more of Nicola Gobbo’s former clients might walk free from jail. He blames Victoria Police.
FARUK ORMAN: Victoria Police, without them, none of this could have happened. Some of them have been promoted, literally. They have been rewarded for their criminal behaviour in effect, for their corruption.
RACHAEL BROWN: It was an extraordinary dual role for a barrister to undertake.
NICOLA GOBBO: It is a complicated story. It began as an ethical and moral dilemma for me.
RACHAEL BROWN: Nicola Gobbo was one of the underworld lawyers of choice representing some of the state’s most dangerous players in Melbourne’s gangland war – Carl Williams.
REPORTER: You don’t know who shot you?
CARL WILLIAMS: No, I don’t know who shot me.
RACHAEL BROWN: And Tony Mokbel.
TONY MOKBEL: The way I look at it… no-one’s perfect.
RACHAEL BROWN: Nicola Gobbo represented both these kingpins and others. Victoria Police was losing this war and recruited Nicola Gobbo as a police informer.
VICTORIAN POLICE OFFICER: Tell me everything you know about Tony Mokbel.
RACHAEL BROWN: It became a dangerous arrangement for both parties.
NICOLA GOBBO: What Victoria Police maintained with me was tell us everything and let us decide.
GRAHAM ASHTON: So she gets aware of 15 million ecstasy tablets. Do we just let that go?
RACHAEL BROWN: The news of a double-dealing lawyer broke in 2014.
NICOLA GOBBO: I can’t put it into words how frightened I was.
RACHAEL BROWN: Police launched a five-year legal battle to keep her identity a secret until the High Court ruled she should be unmasked and that brought on the royal commission.
The commission has spent close to $40 million looking into the mess. It has heard Nicola Gobbo’s near industrial scale informing could have affected over 1,000 people and after nearly two years, the moment of truth.
COMMISSIONER MARGARET MCMURDO: A key recommendation is for the Victorian Government to establish a special investigator with full powers to examine whether Ms Gobbo may have committed any criminal offences connected with her conduct as a human source for Victoria Police.
RACHAEL BROWN: “Duplicitous and inexcusable” is how the commission has summed up Nicola Gobbo’s conduct.
It says she encouraged some clients to cooperate with police and then went on to represent those they implicated. It says this web of conflicts of interest has compromised convictions and shaken public trust in the justice system.
But the woman at the centre of it all says she was groomed and manipulated by Victoria Police.
Nicola Gobbo passed on a statement to 7.30 by her lawyer, Tim Tobin.
TIM TOBIN, SC: I have made plenty of mistakes in my life – the greatest one being seduced into trusting Victoria Police almost 20 years ago.
From the beginning I was groomed, controlled and manipulated by officers of Victoria Police including those at the highest ranks.
My life has been destroyed. My health irreparably damaged and my family utterly devastated. I remain sickened and fearful of those who have orchestrated my actions with full knowledge and encouragement and who are still controlling me now may never face the sanctions that I have or be in any way held accountable for what they have done and are still doing.
RACHAEL BROWN: The police watchdog, the Office of Police Integrity, the OPI had oversight of two major murder investigations that used Nicola as an informer.
GRAHAM ASHTON: The information that she was providing would have been seen as an opportunity to solve some significant crimes. Certainly, you look back now, in terms of what is known about what has followed on from that, the amount of information, the potential for cases being compromised and this sort thing, of course, you look back through a different light.
RACHAEL BROWN: Police used Nicola Gobbo to secretly record Detective Paul Dale who they were investigating in connection with the murders of police informers, Terry and Christine Hodson. Dale was charged, but the charges were later withdrawn after the key witness, Carl Williams, was killed in prison. Mr Dale denies any wrongdoing.
PAUL DALE: My reputation was destroyed, my career was destroyed, and I do lay some of that blame on Nicola Gobbo, however I feel so sorry for her because of what Simon Overland did to her.
Paul Dale claims Victoria Police crippled the justice system to satisfy their egos.
PAUL DALE: Let’s just keep going, we’re getting results. I look good on telly and we look good. We are all getting promoted and we are all getting badges of honour because we have made all these arrests.
We have seen a complete fundamental breach of our justice system. We have seen failure to disclose to the defendants and their legal teams and to the courts. That’s not the police’s place to play judge, jury and executioner.
RACHAEL BROWN: The royal commission has heard investigations were impeded because police cared more about keeping their secret weapon hidden.
Paul Dales says he wanted the Hodson case to go to trial.
PAUL DALE: Look, I would go to trial tomorrow over that matter. It wasn’t investigated correctly because all they wanted was me.
RACHAEL BROWN: He, like others, plans to sue for compensation, but there is one other outcome he’d like to see – those at the top to take responsibility.
PAUL DALE: I would prefer to see Simon Overland’s name on a charge sheet and then a prison cell wall. If his cellmate is Graham Ashton that would be good.
If there are no charges coming from that royal commission, then our justice system is seriously in a lot of trouble.
RACHAEL BROWN: Simon Overland declined an interview with the ABC.
So, will police be charged? The commission hasn’t named names as to not prejudice any potential future trials, but it recommends a special investigator also look into current and former officers.
More than 100 officers knew Nicola Gobbo was an informer and none raised concerns about her representing clients she was informing on nor did they make proper disclosures to the accused nor the courts.
MARGARET MCMURDO: By placing these factors ahead of their duties and obligations, they corrupted the criminal justice system.
RACHAEL BROWN: The Chief Commissioner, Shane Pattan, concedes it was a profound failure.
SHANE PATTON: This should never have happened. It won’t happen again in Victoria Police.
RACHAEL BROWN: Nicola Gobbo is in hiding with her two young children, Faruk Orman spent 12 years in jail but a lot of the officers involved, it is life as normal. A lot of them have been promoted. That’s not really a good look, is it?
SHANE PATTON: We apologise for getting this wrong, but one of the real contributing factors was that organisationally systematically, we did not have in place what should have been there. No one police officer had a full picture of what was going on here.
RACHAEL BROWN: How can you boast about cultural change when there are still so many of the officers who were involved now in high positions within the force?
SHANE PATTON: To contextualise, it happened between 11 and 27 years ago and we have moved forward as an organisation.
Any officers involved, I absolutely think it is appropriate that we now step through and say, “What is the evidence that’s alleged against any of these officers and let’s look through that and determine whether any have committed any offences now that we have had the response from the commission.”
FARUK ORMAN: The toll doesn’t really stop. Like I’m out of prison, thank god, but the suffering doesn’t stop, not for myself or my family really even my family still suffers from it until this day.