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Drug trafficker denied bail over 'leisurely' appeal bid

A drug trafficker jailed over what was once the world's largest ecstasy seizure has again been denied appeal bail, with the judges calling out his "leisurely" approach to challenging his conviction.

John Higgs is one of several people appealing while serving significant prison sentences over the 2007 import of 15 million ecstasy pills in tomato tins.

The 4.4 tonne shipment from Italy to Melbourne by prominent figures in the underworld was uncovered in part because of information provided to authorities by gangland barrister turned Victoria Police informant Nicola Gobbo.

Higgs, who received some legal advice from Ms Gobbo in the lead-up to his trial, is serving an 18-year sentence and is not eligible for parole until March 2026.

But his lawyers argue he has a strong chance of success in his appeal and should be freed early.

Court of Appeal President Karin Emerton and Justice David Beach refused an application by Higgs in April 2021.

On Thursday the same judges refused a fresh application.

They said when they heard Higgs' initial bail bid they assumed he would pursue his appeal application "with some expedition" given the time he has already spent in custody.

"Our expectations, however, have not been met," they said in the latest judgment, describing "a more leisurely course" had been taken.

"Specifically, it appears that the applicant has taken no serious steps to progress his application for leave to appeal between early 2022 and … August 2023."

They were also not persuaded Higgs' appeal has such a prospect of success to justify his release on bail while he still has a significant non-parole period still to run.

Even if an application still took 12 months to be heard by the court, there was still a considerable period of time Higgs had to serve on his non-parole period, they found.