Retired High Court of Australia judge Geoffrey Nettle QC will determine whether criminal or disciplinary charges will be made against certain Victoria Police personnel, as the state’s new special investigator.
Victoria’s Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants recommended the special investigator role be established to investigate the potential criminal conduct of disgraced barrister Nicola Gobbo, as well as any relevant current or former officers of Victoria Police. The role will also be tasked with considering whether police officers were involved in any disciplinary breaches.
Victorian attorney-general Jaclyn Symes made Justice Nettle’s appointment public in a statement released on Wednesday, indicating that he would now commence preparations for his role.
“We’re getting on with the work of restoring the integrity of the justice system by implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendations – ensuring our justice system has Victorians’ confidence and trust,” Symes said.
A total of $13.47 million was allocated in Victoria’s recent state budget to support the work of special investigators and to implement the findings of the royal commission.
The attorney-general added that the retired judge’s appointment was another step forward in restoring confidence in the justice system (Gobbo’s conduct illegally informing on her own clients while representing them as a lawyer was described by the Victorian Court of Appeal as potentially ‘the greatest scandal of our time’).
“Justice Nettle’s extensive and wide-ranging experience at the highest levels of the legal system will ensure a comprehensive, independent and fair investigation is completed into these matters,” Symes said.
During Justice Nettle’s long career in the law, spanning more than 45 years, he has served as a trial and appellate judge in the Victorian Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. He sat as a judge in the High Court of Australia for over five years and was recognised with a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2019 for ‘eminent service to the judiciary, and to the law, to criminal and civil appeals reform, to legal education, and to professional standards’.
Justice Nettle’s appointment commences on 19 July and new legislation will be introduced to the Victorian parliament to give him all necessary powers to perform the role.