A lawyer for underworld figure Tony Mokbel has labelled delays in his Victorian appeal as unacceptably slow, as the 55-year-old grapples with “extraordinary onerous conditions” in prison and staged a jail cell hunger strike.

Mokbel – who is attempting to appeal against his Victorian drugs charges based on police informer Nicola Gobbo’s involvement in his case – is continuing his fight for freedom months after his federal drugs charges were quashed.

Nicola Gobbo and her former client Tony Mokbel.Credit:Nine

A directions hearing at the Supreme Court of Victoria on Tuesday heard lengthy delays in accessing necessary documents for his appeal were causing Mokbel a high level of distress.

His counsel, Ruth Shann, QC, told the hearing before judicial registrar Deirdre McCann that as a result of Mokbel almost being killed in prison in February 2019, he was being housed in protective custody, where “extraordinary onerous conditions” meant he had almost no contact with others.

“[He has] very limited time in a small concrete yard and that’s when there aren’t COVID lockdowns, of which there have been many recently. When there are, there is no contact at all, including not even an ability to have a Zoom contact with family,” Ms Shann said.

“He’s been on hunger strike.”

Mokbel was sentenced to 30 years’ jail in 2012 after pleading guilty to two state charges of trafficking a large commercial quantity of drugs and one federal offence of incitement to import.

Ms Shann said Mokbel’s appeal was filed at the end of 2017, but her team was yet to receive some documents from Victoria Police, the Office of Public Prosecutions and Corrections Victoria.

She flagged a bail application as a potential remedy to the time delays, but noted that would be complex and time-consuming for the court.

“Those complexities and the almost unbelievably difficult conditions that the applicant is facing in custody really places, we say, an obligation on court … to accelerate this matter to the finish line,” she said. “Whatever view might be taken of the applicant, it’s now uncontroversial that the state failed back in the day in relation to the criminal justice system and how it’s supposed to operate.”

Barrister-turned-informer Nicola Gobbo with Tony Mokbel.Credit:Nine

A slim Mokbel appeared via video link from Barwon Prison for the hour-long directions hearing. He was sporting a moustache and dressed in a suit with white shirt and tie.

Ms McCann expressed sympathy for Mr Mokbel’s lawyer and her frustrations, telling the Office of Public Prosecutions and Victoria Police solicitors that the matter must be progressed.

“There has been significant delay,” she said.

During a previous hearing in July, the Supreme Court heard Mokbel was “incredibly eager” to start his appeal against convictions he said were tainted by his past association with Ms Gobbo.

At the time, his lawyer argued police were dragging out the release of documents that could be crucial in the bid to quash convictions based on Ms Gobbo’s involvement in his case while she was his lawyer but also a registered police informer providing assistance to investigators.

Mokbel has already had one of his convictions quashed on appeal and Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell has stated he wants to prioritise the challenges launched by eight men who were all linked to Ms Gobbo.

Requested documents, including affidavits relating to Ms Gobbo, are expected to be handed over before the end of the month, the court heard.

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