“We have confidence that he will lead a fair investigative process,” Mr Gatt said.
Victoria Police would not comment on the announcement, while shadow attorney-general Ed O’Donohue said Mr Nettle was highly respected, adding it was critical for any senior appointment to be tested via a robust due diligence process to ensure there are no conflicts of interest.
Mr Nettle, as a Court of Appeal judge, presided over the first failed appeal from gangland murder accused Faruk Orman, who was later released after 11 years in jail when his conviction for the murder of Victor Peirce was quashed.
At the time Mr Nettle heard the case, Ms Gobbo’s role as an informer was still a secret.
Mr Orman lodged a new appeal after the 2018 High Court decision paved the way for prosecutors to notify Ms Gobbo’s former clients of her informer role.
He was freed the following year, when the court found Ms Gobbo acted as his lawyer while encouraging the key witness in his trial to give evidence against him.
Criminal lawyer Ruth Parker, who spearheaded Mr Orman’s appeal, as well as the second successful appeal brought by Zlate Cvetanovski, said those affected by the scandal were relieved with the appointment.
”Many of us are concerned that members of Victoria Police, including currently serving members, have committed serious crimes against justice and as with any serious crime, these should be properly and thoroughly investigated with the same rigour as would be applied to civilians suspected of committing crimes against justice,” Ms Parker said.
“The findings of the royal commission cannot be fully effected without this investigation, which will close a dark chapter of the Victorian criminal justice system.”
Ms Parker said it would be difficult to find a criminal lawyer in Victoria from the 1990s and 2000s who would not have a conflict either by knowing Ms Gobbo, the police involved, or the targets they arrested.
Mr Nettle comes from a commercial and constitutional law background. Among his high-profile cases was acting as prosecutor in the extradition proceedings against Konrad Kalejs, accused of war crimes in Nazi-controlled Latvia during World War II.
Mr Nettle was appointed to the High Court in 2015 by federal Liberal attorney-general George Brandis, who described him as one of Australia’s “finest jurists” who was “free of controversy”, both feared and admired.
The Bracks Labor government promoted Mr Nettle to the Victorian Supreme Court in 2002.
His role as special investigator will be to assess whether criminal or disciplinary charges against police are warranted, as well as potential charges against Ms Gobbo.
“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 complete into these matters,” Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said in a statement.
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