How an Australian police force used lawyers to snitch on mobsters

Feb 28, 2019

POLICE IN THE state of Victoria spent millions of dollars trying to keep their arrangement with Informer 3838 a secret. She was a young criminal barrister who snitched on some of Australia’s most notorious drug lords while she was representing them in the 1990s and 2000s. The informant, whose name is protected by the courts, claims her actions helped convict nearly 400 criminals. She also violated their right to confidentiality and possibly, their chances of a fair trial. Dozens of gangsters could walk free now the affair has become public.

The police claimed the lawyer would be murdered if her clients discovered she had double-crossed them. But the High Court lifted suppression orders on the case in December, saying that faith in the courts was more important than her personal safety. Informer 3838 had committed “fundamental and appalling breaches” of her duties as a barrister, it ruled. Police had “corrupted” prosecutions and “debased fundamental principles of the criminal justice system”. A royal commission is investigating.

Before that inquiry began in February the police admitted that the lawyer had been dishing dirt for a decade longer than they previously thought: from 1995 to 2009. Neither was she alone. Six other legal clerks, secretaries and solicitors were on police books, some as recently as 2016. Other...

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