A spokeswoman said the royal commission was confident proceedings would continue as planned.
“Be assured that the royal commission will use all powers available to it…in order to properly investigate its terms of reference,” she said.
The uncertainty comes as the royal commission has already been buffeted by revelations Informer 3838 had been working for police since 1995 – nearly a decade longer than previously disclosed – and the existence of at least five other registered informers who may have violated “obligations of confidentiality”.
It triggered the resignation of Commissioner Malcolm Hyde in a bid to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest as a Victoria Police deputy commissioner in the 1990s and dramatically expanded the workload of the royal commission.
On Wednesday, Premier Daniel Andrews said he had not received any indication that extra time would be needed.
“The commissioner’s made it very clear that the commission can do its work with an expanded terms of reference.. but can [still] meet the timelines,” he said.
The steps the police have recently taken to expunge information about Informer 3838 from public and government records comes after the High Court described her position as a police informer as “fundamental” and “appalling” breaches of her obligations to her clients and the legal system.
Police have ordered Victoria’s property registry to erase all details of five properties owned by Informer 3838 from ownership records. Searching those records now reveals nothing at all about her property ownership.
Government agencies and websites have also been sent warning notifications to remove any material that either inadvertently or intentionally disclose her identity or personal details. The notices have sparked the taking down of photographs and information that could reveal her potential location.
The moves come despite the former lawyer’s own habit of ignoring police advice to keep a low profile. Sources say she has continued to live openly in the community, including appearing in social media posts and public events linked to a community group.
Victoria Police began removing identifying information ahead of a decision by the High Court in early December that ordered her former clients be informed that her actions could mean their convictions were “corrupted” and “debased”.
It is unclear whether the steps taken to scrub Informer 3838’s identity from the public record has been undertaken with her cooperation or permission.
Her client list featured some of Melbourne’ most high-profile criminals including murdered gangster Carl Williams, and jailed drug lord Tony Mokbel, drug trafficker Rob Karam and mafia figure Pasquale Barbaro.
While her real name remains suppressed by the court, her identity is an open secret in the legal community and criminal underworld, as well as spreading further into the public domain.
Police have long argued that the safety of Informer 3838 is the key consideration in keeping her identity a secret.
“In line with long established best practice Victoria Police does not comment on the security arrangements concerning any person who might be subject to a risk or threat,” a police spokesman said.
The relationship between Victoria Police and Informer 3838 has been highly combative since word of her cooperation began to leak out more than a decade ago.
The barrister has accused police of violating undertakings that her role as secret intelligence source would never be disclosed.
Claiming her life was now in danger and her treatment as a police source had been horribly botched, Informer 3838 sued Victoria Police in 2010 and received a compensation payout of almost $3 million.
By then, her career as a barrister was all but over amid growing speculation in the criminal world and legal community that her involvement with police was extensive.
Decisions by the High Court, Victorian Supreme Court and Court of Appeal to force the public disclosure of her work as Informer 3838 to her former clients led to the establishment of the royal commission.
Throughout the process, Informer 3838 and Victoria Police have been constantly at loggerheads over her safety and how much involvement the force should have in protecting her.
“The witness is NOT compliant with ANY police instructions…[she] will almost certainly breach police instructions,” a senior police officer noted in a court affidavit.
The High Court noted that her resistance to accepting police assistance was putting her children’s lives in danger and could justify the state removing them from her care.
The former barrister has aired serious concerns about relying on Victoria Police for her protection.
At least two high-profile police informers have been murdered while under the care of Victoria Police or Corrections Victoria, including Terence Hodson and Carl Williams.
“I am not prepared to entrust everything personal to me and my children as well our privacy, safety and wellbeing to the very organization that promised and assured me that my assistance over a number of years would always remain confidential, yet failed so appallingly in protecting my status and indeed, has put my life as well as the lives of my children at risk,” she wrote to police in 2014.
“I have implemented various security and privacy measures to date at my own expense.”
Chris Vedelago is an investigations reporter for The Age with a special interest in crime and justice.