Our team of highly experienced litigators works closely with directors, officers, government and commercial clients to protect their legal, commercial and reputational interests in investigations and inquiries and a broad range of litigation. We provide practical and sophisticated advice on strategic and sensitive matters, including how to manage risk and resolve high-profile problems.
Our expertise spans Royal Commissions, Coronial Inquests and IBAC, ICAC and Parliamentary inquiries through to disputes ranging from defamation cases to class actions.
In these highly sensitive and often difficult matters, our focus in is on providing outstanding legal advice and on sensitively and appropriately interacting with all parties and effectively managing the common political, financial and reputational implications.
- Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants
- Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System
- Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) – Operation Sandon
- Inquest into the Deaths of Residents of St Basil’s Home for the Aged
- Grantham Floods Commission of Inquiry
- ICAC investigation into Hurstville City Council
- Director bondholder claim – Forge Group
This high-profile Royal Commission was established by the Victorian Government after the High Court of Australia upheld the decisions of Victorian courts to allow the Director of Public Prosecutions to disclose to a group of convicted persons that Victoria Police had used former defence barrister, Nicola Gobbo, as a human source.
The Commission’s inquiry focused on some specific aspects of Victoria Police’s role, responsibilities and functions in the criminal justice system, including the use of human sources subject to legal obligations of confidentiality or privilege, the use of information from such sources in criminal proceedings, and how cases may have been affected by the conduct of Ms Gobbo and Victoria Police. The Commission spanned two years, including 11 months of public and private hearings, and generated intense interest from the legal community and public.
Our team, while at a previous firm, advised and represented Victoria Police and its former and current members in their response to the Commission. This included producing witness statements for 130 former and current Victoria Police members and preparing more than 50 witnesses to give evidence before the Commission.
Separately, team members also advised and represented former Chief Commissioner Simon Overland.
In February 2019, the Victorian Government established the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. This signalled a recognition that the State’s mental health system was failing to support those who needed it. The Commission set out an ambitious reform agenda to redesign Victoria’s mental health and wellbeing system, requiring a collaborative, collective effort and shared responsibility across governments, service providers, community groups, advocates, people with lived experience of mental illness or psychological distress, families, carers and supporters.
Our team, while at a previous firm, helped represent all of the Victorian public hospitals with mental health departments. Each of these hospitals provided witnesses and made submissions in response to a series of issues and questions raised by the Royal Commission. The team met with numerous witnesses, prepared their witness statements, prepared them to give evidence, attended the hearings and then drafted submissions.
IBAC’s Operation Sandon is an investigation into allegations of corrupt conduct involving councillors and property developers in the City of Casey in Melbourne’s south-east. IBAC held public hearings during 2019 and 2020. The hearings, presided over by IBAC’s Commissioner The Honourable Robert Redlich QC, focused on a range of issues including:
- the transparency and integrity of planning and property development decision-making within Victoria, including the provision of donations and in kind assistance to candidates at State and local government elections that may give rise to actual or perceived corruption
- whether public officers involved in planning and property development decision-making have been improperly influenced through donations, gifts, pro bono services or other hospitality
- the circumstances surrounding any actual or potential financial benefits obtained by any public officer, their families or their associates, resulting from, or otherwise in connection with, planning and property development decision-making within Victoria, and
- whether the use of professional lobbyists or planning consultants to lobby State and local government has resulted in undue influence over planning and property development decision-making within Victoria.
Our team, while at a previous firm, represented a property developer and his company in this investigation.
This coronial investigation arose out of the deaths of 50 residents in aged care at St Basil’s Home for the Aged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interested parties included the Commonwealth Department of Health, Department of Health Victoria, WorkSafe Victoria, Aged Care Quality Safety Commission, Counsel for 60 family members and St Basil’s Home for the Aged.
Our team sought leave to appear as an interested party at the Inquest on behalf of two private hospitals, which had provided care for St Basil’s Aged Care residents.
On 10 January 2011, a flash flood ripped through the town of Grantham in Queensland causing catastrophic property damage and killing 12 people. Some of the local residents raised questions over whether the breach of the Grantham quarry, located about 3.5 kilometres upstream of the town, had caused or contributed to the flood.
In May 2015, the Premier of Queensland launched the Grantham Floods Commission of Inquiry (the Commission). The Commission was tasked with identifying the cause of the flooding in Grantham and in particular, whether the quarry had played any role. W+K acted for the owner of the quarry.
After five weeks of public hearings, the Commission delivered its findings in October 2015. The Commissioner, Walter Sofronoff QC, found that the quarry had not caused or contributed to the flood; it was a natural disaster and no human agency caused it or could ever have prevented it. It is hoped that the outcomes of the Commission will inform future responses to flood events of this kind.
W+K represented a former local councillor and former mayor before the NSW Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) against allegations of serious corrupt conduct. Our client was one of three former councillors who was alleged to have accepted benefits as an inducement or reward for partially and dishonestly exercising his official functions to favour the interests of Chinese property developers regarding various planning matters in the Hurstville Council area. ICAC also investigated whether our client failed to declare or properly manage any conflict of interest arising from his alleged relationships with Chinese property developers. We spent considerable time preparing our client to appear at ICAC and ensuring ICAC was provided with all relevant evidence. This resulted in a positive outcome for our client as he was the only councillor not to be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for misleading and deceptive conduct.
The plaintiff insurers claimed that six weeks before Forge Group was placed into liquidation, they were induced to issue $100 million of surety performance bonds by misleading or deceptive conduct on the part of the former CEO (David Simpson) and two other company officers The plaintiffs sued for $100m plus interest, which was well in excess of the available D&O insurance cover.
W+K prepared a very strong defence and evidence in support of that defence. We also took a leading role in formulating a “common interest” defence strategy. Simpson and the other officers were completely successful in their defence and were awarded indemnity costs. The Court held that no misleading or deceptive conduct on the part of the defendants was established and that the alleged misleading or deceptive conduct was not causative of the plaintiffs’ loss.