Dozens of Australian journalists, editors and media organisations could face jail time over allegedly breaking a court-ordered suppression of George Pell’s trial for child sex abuse.
Editors of The Age, The Herald Sun, The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and the Australian Financial Review have all been named, along with The Age and its owner, Nine Entertainment, The Herald and Weekly Times and Nationwide News.
Victoria’s director of public prosecutions, Kerri Judd, QC, has put forward a motion that the 36 named be found guilty, convicted and either imprisoned or fined.
Pell’s trial for child sexual abuse and his guilty verdict were suppressed in order to ensure Pell received a fair subsequent trial on other allegations, though this trial never proceeded.
However, over 140 news reports were published across the globe within 24 hours of the guilty verdict being handed down in December last year.
In documents released on Tuesday by the Supreme Court, the offices of public prosecution alleged the media organisations and individuals interfered with “due administration of justice in the prosecution of Pell”.
The documents also said they “aided and abetted overseas media’s contempt”, with their publishing “scandalising the court”.
Both Nine and News Corp released statements refuting the accusations.
News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said: “The Victorian DPP has filed charges against a number of our companies and journalists.
“We will vigorously defend all charges and resolutely stand by our editors and journalists.”
A spokeswoman for Nine said Nine and the employees named deny the allegations.
She said: “As the matter is now before the courts, Nine will not comment further at this time.”
The Age reported the 36 individuals and organisations summoned are:
- The Herald and Weekly Times Pty Ltd
- News Life Media Pty Ltd
- Fairfax Media Limited
- The Age Company Pty Ltd
- Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd
- Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd
- The Geelong Advertiser Pty Ltd
- Nationwide News Pty Ltd
- Advertiser Newspapers Pty Ltd
- Macquarie Media Limited
- Nine Entertainment Co Pty Ltd
- Ray Hadley
- Damon Johnston
- Charis Chang
- Sam Weir
- Andrew Piva
- Ben English
- Lachlan Hastings
- Michael Owen-Brown
- Alex Lavelle
- Ben Woodhead
- Patrick O’Neil
- Michael Bachelard
- Lisa Davies
- Michael Stutchbury
- Patrick Durkin
- Danielle Cronin
- Franziska Rimrod
- Jessica Chambers
- Allure Media Pty Ltd
- Simon Thomsen
- Chris Smith
- Lara Vella
- Christine Ahern
- Deborah Knight
The contempt directions hearing will be held on Monday April 15 before judge John Dixon.