Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton responds to Lawyer X scandal
Graham Ashton is expected to be called to give evidence before the royal commission. (AAP: Ellen Smith)
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton could excuse himself from leading the police response to a royal commission into the use of a lawyer as a police informant during the height of Melbourne’s gangland wars.
- Mr Ashton has given his first interview since a royal commission was called
- He reiterated he had done nothing wrong and his actions were validated by reviews
- He said the force’s policies “are a lot different to how they were 15 years ago”
Mr Ashton held a senior role with the Office of Police Integrity (OPI), an organisation established to stamp out police misconduct, when investigators were using the barrister to reveal confidential information about her clients.
The scandal could taint the convictions of senior gangland criminals, including notorious underworld figure Tony Mokbel, drug trafficker Rob Karam, and convicted killer Faruk Orman.
In his first interview since the royal commission was called on Monday, Mr Ashton said he first found out about the barrister, known as Informer 3838 or Lawyer X, during his time at the OPI.
But he reiterated that he had done nothing wrong and would not stand down.
“I am very confident in my own knowledge and role that I’ve done nothing wrong in this,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“That’s [been] validated by others and other reviews.”
Asked whether he had considered standing down, he said: “I always have to make that evaluation because I’m aware of the importance of my role.”
Premier Daniel Andrews promised a royal commission would be established “within weeks” to look at the use of Informer 3838, and commissioners would be appointed from interstate to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
‘Our polices have changed’
Mr Ashton is expected to be called to give evidence before the royal commission.
He said he would meet with the commissioners after their appointment.
“Certainly, one of the questions I’d be saying is, ‘Do you want me to recuse myself from any sort of line responsibility?'” Mr Ashton said.
“If the royal commissioner thinks that’s appropriate, absolutely I’ll take those steps to do that.”
In announcing the royal commission, Premier Daniel Andrews said he continued to back Mr Ashton.
The Director of Public Prosecutions on Monday wrote to 20 convicted criminals informing them that their lawyer had been exposed as a police informer.
In a letter released on Monday, Informer 3838 boasted about giving investigators information that led to the arrest and charging of 386 people.
“My motivation in assisting police was not for self-gain,” the letter said.
“But was rather borne from the frustration of being aware of prolific, large commercial drug trafficking, importations of massive quantities of drugs, murders, bashings, perverting the course of justice, huge money laundering and other serious offences all being committed without any serious inroads being made by police.”
Mr Ashton said Victoria Police had implemented policies that would prevent a repeat of that situation.
“Our policies around this particular area are a lot different to how they were 15 years ago,” he said.
The state’s anti-corruption body, IBAC, investigated the matter in 2015 but did not make its findings public.
Mr Ashton rejected suggestions that Victoria Police provided limited or outdated information to that inquiry.
“Everything IBAC asked for, we provided,” he said.