POLICE officers with more than 30 years' experience have admitted to inadvertently neglecting to follow proper procedures when obtaining search warrants during the decade-long investigations into the drug boss Tony Mokbel.
At Mokbel's change of plea application in Victoria's Supreme Court, the retired detective inspector Jim O'Brien apologised yesterday for not swearing or witnessing the oath in relation to 10 Mokbel search warrant affidavits.
''It's a failure of my personal leadership and I accept responsibility,'' he told Justice Simon Whelan. ''I'd just like to offer my apology to the court in respect of these issues and for the cost to the community of Victoria.''
Mr O'Brien arrested Mokbel at a restaurant in Greece in 2007 after he had fled Australia the previous year while on trial for serious drugs charges. Mokbel, 46, pleaded guilty in April this year to charges including trafficking large commercial quantities of drugs.
But after senior police admitted in an unrelated case that they had failed to swear affidavits on the Bible or by affirmation as legally required, Mokbel sought to change his plea to not guilty. His lawyers have since discovered that some of the warrants used to gather evidence against him had not been properly sworn by police, or were missing dates, locations and other critical details.
Mr O'Brien, who was the head of the Purana gangland taskforce when he retired after 30 years with Victoria Police in 2007, said not swearing documents on oath was an ''accepted practice'' at the crime department when he returned to work there in 2001.
Detective Senior Sergeant Alan Paxton, an officer of 35 years, testified that he remembered at least once when he had not properly sworn a Mokbel affidavit.
The hearing continues.