Faruk Orman in police custody.
Faruk Orman in police custody.

Conviction quashed in Lawyer X scandal

GANGLAND figure Faruk Orman will walk free after his conviction for the murder of underworld heavy Victor Peirce was quashed today.

Orman, who was betrayed by his barrister Nicola Gobbo - also known as Lawyer X - fronted court in what has been described as a "test case''.

A smiling Faruk, wearing a suit, took to the dock and spoke with other supporters in court as he waited for appeal judges Chris Maxwell, Karin Emerton and Richard Niall to take to the bench.

An overflow room has been provided due to the packed courtroom, with huge interest in the result.

Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd QC says Nicola Gobbo on November 9 2007, while acting for Faruk Orman, "took active steps to ensure the principal Crown witness would in fact give evidence against (Orman)".

She said Gobbo's conduct represented a "substantial miscarriage of justice", conceding it was unjust but said there was still enough evidence - and that a retrial should be heard

 

 

Faruk Orman is pictured outside court in 2004.
Faruk Orman is pictured outside court in 2004.

A full bench of three judges is required to quash a conviction.

And legal experts are speculating that the state's top prosecutor may concede that the case against Orman is too tainted to defend.

Orman is the first criminal to walk out of jail due to the Gobbo scandal, plunging the police force into an unprecedented crisis.

Other prisoners appealing their convictions on the Lawyer X principle are drug lord Tony Mokbel, ecstasy trafficker Rob Karam and methamphetamine cook Zlate Cvetanovski.

The High Court of Australia in November described Victoria Police's use of Gobbo to inform on her clients as "reprehensible conduct'', prompting a Royal Commission.

Orman, who has already served 12 years of a 14-year minimum sentence, could also sue for millions of dollars if his appeal succeeds.

The Barwon Prison inmate has always maintained his innocence. His 2009 conviction is significant because it was a circumstantial prosecution.

 

Nicola Gobbo.
Nicola Gobbo.

Appeal Court president Chris Maxwell AC has granted the request for three judges to preside over the hearing, unusual for a "mention" which is normally held just to set a date for the next hearing.

When queried about the request by Justice Maxwell earlier this month, Ms Judd did not want to answer questions in open court about the reasons.

"I don't want to answer the question at the moment; there's a whole lot of things that I need to look at with the material. There might be issues - there's a whole lot of suppression orders in this matter … There are variables. I understand the parties agree with that proposal,'' she said.

But the Supreme Court this morning confirmed that three judges would be present for this morning's 9.30am hearing in the Court of Appeal.

It is a month since the state's attorney general, Jill Hennessy, granted Orman's petition for mercy, reviving his appeal process against his murder conviction.

He was alleged to have been the driver for hitman Andrew "Benji'' Veniamin in the 2002 shooting of Peirce in Bay St, Port Melbourne.

Victor Peirce. Picture: Supplied
Victor Peirce. Picture: Supplied

The case against him relied heavily on the evidence of a criminal associate, who had also been represented by Gobbo.

In an extraordinary statement on June 26 this year, Ms Hennessy said: "Based on the material provided by Mr Orman's lawyers, I am satisfied there is credible evidence that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in Mr Orman's case arising from Nicola Gobbo's conduct and use as a human source by Victoria Police.''

Orman had previously exhausted his appeal options after taking his case to the High Court of Australia, which was unsuccessful.

Earlier this month Justice Maxwell expressed "serious concerns'' over the conviction.

Orman is the only jailed person affected by Lawyer X who has been given significant disclosure from police about Gobbo's informing on him.

anthony.dowsley@news.com.au

@AnthonyDowsley

Andrew “Benji” Veniamin.
Andrew “Benji” Veniamin.


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