Police block damages claim for Gobbo client who served 12 years’ jail

Victoria Police has moved to block any compensation for Faruk Orman, who served 12 years in jail before his murder conviction was quashed in 2019 because of the role played by barrister-turned-police-informer Nicola Gobbo.

Lawyers acting for Victoria Police have submitted that Mr Orman’s claim for aggravated and exemplary damages is baseless, and is “liable to be struck out and the proceeding dismissed”, according to a defence statement filed in the Supreme Court.

Faruk Orman walked free from the Supreme Court in July 2019.Credit:Eddie Jim

Mr Orman, who was found to be the victim of a “substantial miscarriage of justice” by the Court of Appeal, is understood to be seeking more than $10 million from the force.

However, Victoria Police’s legal team has claimed its officers, including former chief commissioner Simon Overland and several Purana taskforce detectives, are not to blame for Mr Orman’s wrongful conviction over the 2002 murder of gangster Victor Peirce.

“The miscarriage of justice was due to Gobbo’s conduct,” says a defence statement by law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth, who are acting for Victoria Police.

Several failed mediations and the hardline approach by Victoria Police suggest the case is almost certain to proceed to trial, with several other former clients of Ms Gobbo poised to challenge their convictions and also expected to pursue compensation.

Nicola Gobbo.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Lawyers for Mr Orman have accused police officers involved in his case of conducting a malicious prosecution of their client, false imprisonment, misconduct in public office and breach of duty of care.

“The misconduct of the Victoria Police members is demonstrative of a disgraceful, scandalous and contumelious disregard for the plaintiff [Mr Orman].”

“The conduct of the Victoria Police members was such that they knew that the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of the plaintiff [Mr Orman] for the murder of Peirce was a miscarriage of justice,” the statement of claim filed by Mr Orman’s lawyers says.

Victoria Police deny all accusations of misconduct in its defence statement.

After the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants released its damning findings in November last year, Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said the use of Ms Gobbo as a registered informer had been a “profound failure by our organisation”.

“It was an indefensible interference in the lawyer-client relationship that is a fundamental requirement for the proper functioning of our criminal justice system,” Mr Patton said last year.

In the case of Mr Orman, the commission found Ms Gobbo divulged Mr Orman’s defence tactics to police, while the Director of Public Prosecutions conceded a miscarriage of justice occurred because Ms Gobbo acted as Mr Orman’s lawyer while also encouraging a gangland turncoat to become a witness against him.

Gangland figure Zlate Cvetanovski, who spent close to a decade behind bars, became the second person to be acquitted over the Lawyer X scandal in October 2020, when the Court of Appeal was told his barrister Ms Gobbo had convinced a key witness to incriminate him.

Zlate Cvetanovski after his conviction was quashed last year.Credit:Jason South

Mr Cvetanovski’s trial on serious drug trafficking charges was also found to be irrevocably contaminated by a series of payments made by Victoria Police to the jailhouse witness who was crucial in securing the conviction.

Like Mr Orman, Mr Cvetanovski is also expected to launch a civil claim against Victoria Police to pursue damages.

Other prisoners appealing their convictions include drug lord Tony Mokbel and drug trafficker Rob Karam, who was jailed over one of Australia’s biggest Calabrian mafia drug busts – 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy pills stowed in tomato tins.

Francesco Madafferi, who was jailed alongside Karam, Pat Barbaro and Pasquale Sergi over the ecstasy in the tomato tins importation, is also appealing his drug trafficking conviction because of allegations Ms Gobbo assisted with the investigation before she represented Karam and others in court.

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