National

Lawyers for Vic cop killer out of funds

By AAP Newswire

Lawyers working to free Jason Roberts, convicted of killing two Melbourne police officers, say they are at a funding crisis point amid issues with Legal Aid.

Roberts was jailed for life alongside serial killer Bandali Debs for the 1998 murders of Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller, but has always maintained his innocence.

He hopes new alibi evidence will clear his name and has made a petition for mercy, but now his lawyers say they face the "confronting" prospect of withdrawing from the case.

The Silk-Miller murders were recently the focus of an Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) inquiry into police misconduct.

On Friday, Roberts' lawyer Peter Matthews told the Supreme Court of Victoria he was not confident his team would be paid for months of preparation for a possible retrial.

He added the team had worked for nearly five years on the case, and had worked thousands of hours pro-bono.

Mr Matthews said "large bodies of work" still needed to be done before a special hearing to test the alibi evidence, scheduled for February 2020 after the matter was referred to the court by former Attorney-General Martin Pakula.

"We have reached the point, as Mr Roberts' legal team, where we find we can't continue under the current conditions of funding," Mr Matthews told the court.

"We're in a position where it's not an exaggeration to call it a crisis."

Mr Matthews said Roberts' legal team still needed to listen to recordings and wade through "a vast body of material" in light of the IBAC hearings.

Contemporary forensic science from England and the United States on gunshot residue, ballistics and trajectory of shots also needed to be researched, he said.

"This is a complex case. There are very high stakes both for our clients and others," he said.

"Mr Roberts is entitled to be properly represented in this case of such importance ... it is imperative the matter be properly funded."

A lawyer speaking on behalf of Sgt Silk and Snr Const Miller's family members, some of whom were present in court on Friday, said they hoped the matter would be dealt with quickly.

She said each mention of their loved ones "leaves them in a state of suspended confusion and continued grief".

"These proceedings have reopened their wounds," she said.

Justice Robert Osborn said Mr Matthews would need to work with Legal Aid to overcome the funding issues, otherwise the court would be "placed in a difficult position".

Mr Matthews said he would seek an independent review after meeting with Legal Aid next week to discuss funding caps.

Roberts will return to court on a date to be fixed.