DPP moves to jail dozens of editors, journalists over reports after Pell verdict
March 26, 2019
Dozens of Australia’s leading media editors and journalists, including staff at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, could face prison for contempt of court over allegations they breached a suppression order in reports published after George Pell’s conviction on child sex abuse charges.
Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd, QC, has named 36 organisations and individuals in a motion before the Supreme Court and applied that they be found guilty, convicted and either imprisoned or fined.
Editors of The Age, The Herald Sun, The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and the Australian Financial Review are all named in the motion.
The Age and its owner, Nine Entertainment, The Herald and Weekly Times and Nationwide News, the publisher of The Daily Telegraph, are among the organisations in the motion.
The editors, journalists and their employers were issued with summons notices for contempt of court relating to stories that were published in December last year, after Pell was found guilty of sexually abusing two choirboys.
Australian media were prevented from naming Pell in reports last year due to a suppression order, which was put in place to ensure Pell received a fair subsequent trial on other allegations.
County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd lifted the suppression order in February, when prosecutors confirmed the second trial wouldn’t go ahead. Judge Kidd’s ruling then allowed media to report Pell’s guilt and details of the trial.
Pell, 77, was last month jailed for six years. His appeal against conviction will be heard in early June.
Australian media were put on notice by the OPP in the days after Pell was found guilty, over reports that broadly referred to the case but didn’t name the Cardinal. International media that reported Pell’s guilt at the time, among them The Washington Post and The New York Post are not facing charges.
On December 13, two days after Pell was found guilty, The Age published a front-page story under the headline “Why media can’t report on a high-profile case”. The Age Editor Alex Lavelle, with afternoon News Editor Patrick O’Neil and Investigations Editor Michael Bachelard – who co-wrote the story – are among those cited for contempt.
In documents released on Tuesday by the Supreme Court, the OPP alleges the media organisations and individuals prejudiced and interfered with “due administration of justice in the prosecution of Pell”, “aided and abetted overseas media’s contempt”, and that their publishing “had the effect of scandalising the court”.
Prosecutors have applied for the organisations and individuals to be found guilty, to be convicted and to face either jail terms or fines.
Justice John Dixon will hear the application on April 15.
The 36 respondents are:
- The Herald and Weekly Times Pty Ltd
- Damon Johnston
- Charis Chang
- News Life Media Pty Ltd
- Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd
- Sam Weir
- The Geelong Advertiser Pty Ltd
- Andrew Piva
- Nationwide News Pty Ltd
- Ben English
- Lachlan Hastings
- Advertiser Newspapers Pty Ltd
- Michael Owen-Brown
- Fairfax Media Limited
- The Age Company Pty Ltd
- Alex Lavelle
- Ben Woodhead
- Patrick O’Neil
- Michael Bachelard
- Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd
- Lisa Davies
- Michael Stutchbury
- Patrick Durkin
- Danielle Cronin
- Franziska Rimrod
- Jessica Chambers
- Allure Media Pty Ltd
- Simon Thomsen
- Macquarie Media Limited
- Chris Smith
- Ray Hadley
- Nine Entertainment Co Pty Ltd
- Lara Vella
- Christine Ahern
- Deborah Knight