Nicola Gobbo

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Nicola Gobbo
Bornc.1973 (age 46–47)[1]
Other namesLawyer X
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
Known forNotorious criminal defence litigation[2]
Partner(s)Richard Barkho
RelativesSir James Gobbo (uncle)

Nicola Gobbo is an Australian former criminal defence lawyer and police informant.[3][4]


1996 election scandal[edit]

Gobbo first came to public attention during the 1996 Australian federal election. In the last week of the campaign, Labor Treasurer Ralph Willis used letters purportedly from Jeff Kennett criticising Liberal leader John Howard. The letters were quickly exposed as forgeries.[5] Gobbo, then a Young Labor member, publicly claimed that the forger was then-Liberal staffer and current Senate president Scott Ryan, who had intended for the forgery to pass initial inspection then rebound on Labor.[6][7] Despite Gobbo’s signed statutory declaration, Ryan denied the claim.[2]


Gobbo was a witness against Paul Dale, a former policeman accused of corruption.[8][9][10][11] She asserted that Australian authorities have not fulfilled assurances made to her about protecting her safety. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation repeated that Gobbo asserted she had received death threats due to her planned testimony.[12]

Lawyer X scandal[edit]

Between 1995 and 2009, Gobbo was a registered police informant, whilst also working as a defence lawyer for many of Melbourne's organised crime figures. She passed Victoria Police information about her clients whilst representing them, leading to the prospect of many convictions being overturned. During media coverage of the scandal in 2018 and 2019, Gobbo's identity was subject to a suppression order, and she was referred to in the media only as Lawyer X or Informer 3838.[13] The suppression order was lifted in December 2018 when it was reported that she had represented convicted criminals, Carl Williams and Tony Mokbel.[2] On 3 December 2018 the Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews ordered the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants. As part of its inquiry, the Royal Commission examined the number of, and extent to which, criminal cases may have been affected by the conduct of Gobbo, as a criminal defence barrister who was, at various times between January 1995 and January 2009, acting as a police informant with Victoria Police.[14] The Commission was due to report to the Government in July 2019.; however, as the inquiry proceeded it became clear that this timeline was not achievable. In May 2019 the Commission received $20 million in additional funding and a twelve-month extension to July 2020.[15]

In May 2019 it was reported that some of Gobbo's clients who received criminal convictions could be potentially overturned on appeal, on the basis that Gobbo may have provided information to police that led to the conviction of her clients; whilst at the same time representing her clients as their defence lawyer.[16] At the time of lifting the suppression order to reveal Gobbo's identity, the High Court found that [Gobbo] covertly informing on [her] clients was a "fundamental and appalling breach" of the barrister's obligations.[17] In handing down their decision on appeal from the Supreme Court of Victoria, Appeals Court, the judges commented:[18]

Generally speaking, it is of the utmost importance that assurances of anonymity of the kind that were given to EF [Gobbo] are honoured. If they were not, informers could not be protected and persons would be unwilling to provide information to the police which may assist in the prosecution of offenders. That is why police informer anonymity is ordinarily protected by public interest immunity. But where, as here, the agency of police informer has been so abused as to corrupt the criminal justice system, there arises a greater public interest in disclosure to which the public interest in informer anonymity must yield.

EF's actions in purporting to act as counsel for the Convicted Persons while covertly informing against them were fundamental and appalling breaches of EF's obligations as counsel to her clients and of EF's duties to the court. Likewise, Victoria Police were guilty of reprehensible conduct in knowingly encouraging EF to do as she did and were involved in sanctioning atrocious breaches of the sworn duty of every police officer to discharge all duties imposed on them faithfully and according to law without favour or affection, malice or ill-will. As a result, the prosecution of each Convicted Person was corrupted in a manner which debased fundamental premises of the criminal justice system.


When the hit TV show Desperate Housewives first premiered in Australia in 2004 Gobbo was one of the prominent Australian women from whom The Age sought a reaction.[3]

Gobbo's partner is Richard Barkho and they have two children. As of March 2019, Barkho was serving a five-year custodial sentence for drug trafficking.[19]

Gobbo is the cousin of a Melbourne barrister, Jeremy Gobbo QC. She is also the niece of Sir James Gobbo AC, CVO, QC, a former Governor of Victoria.[2]


  1. ^ Wahlquist, Calla (30 March 2019). "Lawyer X: the extraordinary story laid out before royal commission". The Guardian. Australia. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d McKenzie-Murray, Martin (6 April 2019). "Police informants inquiry". The Saturday Paper. Australia. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Women flock to retro show". The Age. 5 February 2005. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011. Melbourne barrister Nicola Gobbo said: "What a fantastic program. I'm already a fan... It's always good to be able to laugh at reality and it's reality TV for the suburbs. I'm not a suburban housewife but I think it's fabulous."CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ "Revealed: Lawyer X is gangland barrister Nicola Gobbo". Australian Financial Review. 1 March 2019. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  5. ^ Farouqe, Farrah (2 May 1996). "Forged letters author still unknown". The Age. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  6. ^ Gobbo, Nicola (13 July 1999). "13 July 1999 - Extracts from document tabled in New South Wales Parliament in July 1999". Australian National News of the Day. Archived from the original on 13 December 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  7. ^ "Nicola Gobbo's role revealed in infamous 1996 election eve political hoax". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  8. ^ Murphy, Padraic (26 November 2011). "Lawyer Nicola Gobbo intimately linked to former cop Paul Dale". Herald Sun. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011. After Mr Dale was charged over the burglary, Ms Gobbo visited him at Port Phillip Prison. Ms Gobbo was later asked to pass messages between Mr Dale and gangland killer Carl Williams. Ms Gobbo later gave a statement to police after recording a conversation she had with Mr Dale at an Albert Park coffee shop.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  9. ^ Lowe, Adrian (26 June 2010). "Lawyer 'demanded $20m'". The Age. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011. In April, Ms Gobbo issued proceedings in the Supreme Court against the state of Victoria, Chief Commissioner Simon Overland and his predecessor, Christine Nixon. In her statement of claim, she alleges she was induced by police to make a statement against Mr Dale and her security and safety as a witness were not properly managed.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  10. ^ Lowe, Adrian (25 September 2010). "Gobbo case settled out of court with police". The Age. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011. Nicola Gobbo, a former criminal barrister, had issued Supreme Court proceedings against the State of Victoria, Chief Commissioner Simon Overland and his predecessor, Christine Nixon, alleging police had failed to comply with an agreement to protect her after she agreed to testify against former detective Paul Dale and put her safety at risk.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  11. ^ Campbell, James (27 November 2011). "How I taped drug squad cop Paul Dale: Nicola Gobbo". Sunday Herald Sun. Archived from the original on 14 December 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011. Gobbo also claims she passed on messages between Dale and Carl Williams under the noses of the police who were trying to put them away, as well as between Dale and Terrence Hodson - a crim and police informer, who, along with his wife, was executed in May 2004.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  12. ^ Caldwell, Alison (22 November 2011). "Death threats in case against allegedly corrupt cop". ABC News. Australia. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011. A barrister who has represented several Melbourne underworld figures has been dropped as a prosecution witness in a case against a former drug squad detective because of concerns for her safety. Nicola Gobbo received death threats over her involvement in the case against Paul Dale.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  13. ^ Farnsworth, Sarah (1 March 2019). "Lawyer X's identity revealed after gag order expires". ABC News. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  14. ^ "About the Commission". Victoria, Australia: Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants. 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  15. ^ Davey, Melissa (10 May 2019). "Impossible' deadline: Lawyer X inquiry gets further $20m and more time to report". The Guardian. Australia. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  16. ^ Lagan, Bernard (10 May 2019). "Australian gangsters set to be freed because mob lawyer was police informant". Sydney – via
  17. ^ "Melbourne gangland lawyer explains why she became a police informant". ABC News. Australia. 5 December 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  18. ^ AB (a pseudonym) v. CD (a pseudonym); EF (a pseudonym) v. CD (a pseudonym) [2018] HCA 58 at 10-12 (5 November 2018), High Court (Australia)
  19. ^ Younger, Emma (20 March 2019). "Lawyer X Nicola Gobbo's partner loses court bid to have jail term reduced". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 25 June 2019.