Further delay to Tony Mokbel appeal case frustrates his lawyer

Tony Mokbel’s appeal against convictions for drug trafficking have hit another delay, just over a week since his lawyer expressed frustration at the time it is taking for his client’s legal challenge to drag through court.

Mokbel, 56, is serving a 30-year jail term but has appealed against his convictions given his past involvement with Nicola Gobbo, who was a registered police informer and assisting investigators while she was his lawyer.

Nicola Gobbo with Tony Mokbel outside a court in 2004.Credit:Nine News

His current counsel, Ruth Shann, SC, said Mokbel’s appeal was launched at the end of 2017, but the Court of Appeal is unlikely to have it go before a panel of judges until April next year at the earliest.

Ms Shann last week told an administrative hearing Mokbel was distressed at the time it was taking to access key documents to assist his appeal, and that he had staged a recent hunger strike in prison.

On Thursday, Ms Shann reiterated that frustration after Victoria’s chief prosecutor, Brendan Kissane, QC, asked for more time to prepare a file of documents to hand over, after they were intended to be lodged on Friday.

“The delay is both oppressive and unnecessary, and has to stop,” Ms Shann said.

Tony Mokbel is appealing his convictions given his past connection to barrister-turned-informer Nicola Gobbo.Credit:Nine News

Mr Kissane said he and a colleague needed an extra fortnight to prepare the documents, and said he had asked for the deadline to be extended when he and his colleague realised they would not complete the file in time, and also wanted to liaise with lawyers for federal police. Mr Kissane said he and his colleague were also juggling other unrelated commitments.

“We are well advanced but we still have further work to do on it,” Mr Kissane said.

Judicial registrar Deirdre McCann said the prosecutors’ request for more time was disappointing when they didn’t raise the concern last week, but ruled there was no value in imposing an earlier deadline than two weeks. She ordered the prosecutors hand over the documents to Mokbel’s lawyers by December 3.

“You’re well aware of the frustrations and the issues Mr Mokbel has been experiencing, as well as counsel who are representing him,” she told the prosecutor.

Ms Shann said the longer the delays, the longer the wait for Mokbel’s appeal to be heard in court, as the case was complex and defence lawyers needed time to absorb what was in the documents. The case had already been marred by delays, she said, and prosecutors’ latest explanation was “wholly unsatisfactory”.

Ms Shann also corrected her statement from last week, over where Mokbel was held in Barwon Prison. Last week she said he was in protective custody, but on Thursday said he had been in a management unit since he was viciously attacked by two other inmates in 2019.

Mokbel, who appeared by video from prison but did not say anything, has already had one conviction quashed on appeal and the court has said it wants to prioritise the challenges launched by men all previously linked to Ms Gobbo.

Mokbel’s case will return for another directions hearing on December 16.

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