Statement from Chief Commissioner Shane Patton

I [Shane Patton, Chief Commissioner, Victoria Police] would like to make clear today Victoria Police’s absolute acknowledgement that the management of Nicola Gobbo as a human source and the manner in which the information she provided was used, was a profound failure by our organisation that must not, and will not, ever be repeated.

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Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton
Chief Commissioner Shane Patton. PHOTO: Victoria Police/Supplied.
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I [Shane Patton, Chief Commissioner, Victoria Police] would like to make clear today Victoria Police’s absolute acknowledgement that the management of Nicola Gobbo as a human source and the manner in which the information she provided was used, was a profound failure by our organisation that must not, and will not, ever be repeated.

As Victoria Police has previously stated, it was an indefensible interference in the lawyer/client relationship that is a fundamental requirement for the proper functioning of our criminal justice system.

Victoria Police has a proud history of keeping the community safe, built on the foundations of mutual respect and trust. This was a breach of that trust.

As Chief Commissioner, I have apologised to the courts and to the community for what occurred and I do so again today. I also apologise for our failure to identify and disclose what was occurring at the time.

It has often been conveyed in the media that Victoria Police has failed to take responsibility. I want to be abundantly clear that I do not believe, and nor has it ever been submitted by Victoria Police, that ‘the ends justified the means’.

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That is not my position. While the police at the time were certainly grappling with extraordinarily challenging and dangerous times, I reiterate that the ends, did not, and never do, justify the means.

Victoria Police has come a long way since the events under examination at this Royal Commission took place.

Significant reforms have been introduced that have overhauled our human source management practices.

As a result, our systems for dealing with a human source who may have obligations of confidentiality and privilege are vastly improved. As the Commissioner noted, we are one of the few Australian law enforcement agencies that adopts specific rules and safeguards for the use of human sources involving legal obligations of confidentiality or privilege.

In parallel, there has been a concerted and committed drive to strengthen our culture over recent years, in which the highest standards of conduct are expected of every police officer.

In today’s Victoria Police, what happened with Ms Gobbo simply could not occur.

That said, this Royal Commission has identified areas in which Victoria Police can further improve, and as Chief Commissioner I am committed to ensuring these opportunities are fully realised.

To that end I have initiated a new Taskforce, Taskforce Reset, that will lead our organisational response on all matters arising out of the RCMPI. The Taskforce will report directly to Deputy Commissioner Wendy Steendam and will be provided with all the resources necessary to ensure it is able to deliver fully on its remit.

This Royal Commission has been a deeply difficult experience for some of our serving and veteran police officers who have been required to reflect closely on the decisions they made up to 27 years ago.

It was a failure of Victoria Police governance and management that our police officers were operating in a complex and high-risk environment without the training, resources, policies and support that they needed to do their jobs properly.

The Royal Commission has shown that our framework for the management of human sources was at the time wholly insufficient for the task at hand and did not provide the robust structure needed to ensure better decisions were being made.

Victoria Police will cooperate fully with any further criminal and discipline inquiries which arise because of this Royal Commission into the conduct of individual officers.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the enormous amount of work done by Victoria Police in support of this Commission.

At the start in December 2018, Victoria Police committed to cooperating fully and we have done just that.

It has been an enormous and challenging task and has involved searching through millions of emails and documents spanning 27 years.

In total Victoria Police has:

• Identified, located and searched over 52 million records;

• Individually reviewed approximately 600,000 emails;

• Produced 980 diary entries totalling 22,000 pages;

• Transcribed and produced 230 hours of recordings;

• Produced in total 75,000 documents totalling 650,000 pages;

While we have had to be conscious of the significant safety risks arising to members of the community from the information contained in these documents, we have worked tirelessly to support the work of the Commission and searched for and produced documents regardless of whether they reflected well or poorly on Victoria Police or any current or former officers.

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