It is relatively common for law-enforcement agencies in Australia to use informants to secure the conviction of those who are engaged in serious crimes such as drug trafficking and illegal weapons trading. If you have been approached by the police and asked to act an informant, it is important that you consult a lawyer before you agree to act a source, give statements or sign any documents. Below is a guide which will help you to understand the possible implications of becoming an informant.
The role of an informant
An informant is a person who is either involved in or has knowledge of a serious criminal activity. The police will usually approach a potential informant informally and ask them to provide information. In return for this information, the police may offer certain assurances that the person acting as an informant will not be a target in any subsequent case which is brought before a court. However, it is important to remember that you may still be requested to give evidence and that the prosecution may still seek to prosecute you for an alleged crime.
If you have already been arrested and charged with a crime, the police may offer you a plea deal in which you provide information which will secure the conviction of major criminals in return for reduced charges or immunity against prosecution.
The risks of becoming an informant
If the police have approached you and offered you the opportunity to become an informant, it is important that you fully understand the risks involved. Acting as an informant can place your wellbeing and life at risk. Members of serious crime gangs are often very violent people, and it is likely they will want to harm you if they discover you have assisted the police.
It is also possible that the police may make promises they cannot keep to persuade you to become an informant, which could mean you end up facing a lengthy time behind bars despite the assistance you have provided.
How a lawyer can help you
Before you make any decisions about becoming a police informant, it is vital that you speak to a lawyer. A lawyer will be able to advise you of your prospects if you were to be charged with a crime, and will also be able to assess if the plea bargain the police are offering you is realistic. A lawyer will also be able to assist with applications to join the witness protection programme if your life is placed at risk.
If you have any concerns about becoming a police informant, you should contact a law firm today.