The Victorian Supreme Court has temporarily extended an injunction which prevents the Herald Sun from publishing further details concerning a police informer know as Lawyer X, after the injunction was issued earlier in the week.
The injunction was granted on Tuesday following an application by Victoria Police after publication by the Herald Sun of claims a police taskforce into multiple murders was shut down to protect the lawyer. On Thursday, the court temporarily extended the order and reserved its decision on an application by the Chief Commissioner of Police for a further extension until completion of court hearings.
The Herald Sun reported Lawyer X had been recruited to inform on senior crime figures for years and was paid a multi-million dollar sum to keep silent, and as compensation, as the relationship between police and the informant soured.
The injunction sought to prevent Lawyer X being named or identified, although Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston said it was not the intention of the paper to identify the person.
In a statement issued on Tuesday night and published on Wednesday, Mr Johnston said: “The police last night moved to prevent us from publishing important details that go to the heart of the public interest. We believe Victorians deserve to know the details of what we had intended to publish in today’s newspaper.”
The action by Victoria Police has led to concerns over press freedoms.
Victorian Labor leader Daniel Andrews defended media freedom in an interview on Melbourne’s 3AW.
“We cherish a free media in this state,” he said, “and it’s always a concern when the media is unable to publish a story they believe to be in the public interest.”
Mr Johnston said the Herald Sun would explore all legal avenues in a bid to publish the details in the newspaper.
Victoria Police issued a statement saying it would never confirm whether anyone is or has ever been a police informant, as the risks are too high. “While we might like to make comment we’re restricted by a whole range of issues around the management of human sources and our methodology,” it said.
“What the recent media coverage has done – regardless of whether Lawyer X was a police informant or not – is put this person at extreme risk and it’s for that reason, along with the broader integrity of the human source management process and those involved, that we will not be commenting on any individual matters.”
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