Drug kingpin Tony Mokbel’s mental health is deteriorating because of the extreme social isolation he faces in jail, a court has been told.
Mokbel’s recovery from the traumatic brain injury he sustained when attacked by two inmates at Barwon Prison has also been hampered by conditions that see him locked up for up to 20 hours a day.
Tony Mokbel in Melbourne’s court precinct in 2006.Credit:Andrew De La Rue
Mokbel, 57, appeared in Victoria’s Court of Appeal on Monday, where his lawyers applied for him to be resentenced after one of his previous convictions was quashed due to the Lawyer X scandal.
His barrister Julie Condon, KC, said Mokbel’s rehabilitation from the February 2019 jailhouse assault had been slow because he’d been socially isolated while in protective custody.
“He’s doing time in harsh conditions. His conditions in custody have impeded the rehabilitative process,” she said.
“Mr Mokbel spends in the order of 20 hours per day alone in his cell most days. He has no access to work, education or rehabilitation programs.
“He’s placed in a restrictive environment through no fault of his own, and he shouldn’t be subjected to it.”
Mokbel spent 24 days in a coma after the attack and was left with cognitive issues impacting his memory, planning, organisation and reasoning skills.
Condon said social isolation had impeded Mokbel’s recovery and caused his mental health to suffer.
She said Mokbel, who wants to be transferred to another prison to be with the mainstream population, is only allowed out of his cell for one or two hours a day.
“He reported that he had not set foot on grass or an open airspace since his assault [and] traumatic brain injury in February 2019,” she said.
Mokbel suffered two heart attacks in March and April last year and then underwent stent surgery, but Condon said the medical care he had received had been left “wanting”.
Mokbel pleaded guilty to three counts of drug trafficking and was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2012.
One of his convictions – importing a commercial quantity of cocaine from Mexico – was quashed by the appeal court in December 2020 after his former lawyer Nicola Gobbo was ousted as a police informer in what became known as the Lawyer X scandal.
Wearing a black suit, Mokbel sat in inside the court dock on Monday, flanked by two custody officers.
Prosecutor Raelene Sharp, SC, said she was not seeking a disproportionate sentence and Mokbel would remain in prison regardless of the outcome.
“Whatever the varied sentence is, it doesn’t mean that there’s an imminent release date. It’s not a situation where the applicant’s at risk of serving more time than would otherwise the appropriate,” she said.
Condon said Mokbel was entitled to be given some certainty on how long he will remain behind bars.
“He’s simply served a prison sentence referable to a conviction that is no longer valid,” she said.
The three judges reserved their decision to a later date.
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