Dozens of journalists have been threatened with a charge of contempt of court and may face possible jail terms over breaking the Cardinal George Pell trial suppression order.
Cardinal Pell, 77, was found guilty of four counts of performing an indecent act with a child under 16 and one count of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16.
The verdict was made public today after a suppression order was lifted and the second trial over allegations Pell indecently assaulted boys in Ballarat in the 1970s was deserted by the prosecution.
The suppression order was issued by the chief judge of Victoria’s county court, Peter Kidd, on 25 June 2018.
The prosecution requested the suppression order to prevent “a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice” due to the fact Pell was originally set to face a second trial on separate charges.
However, when Pell was found guilty in December, some international media outlets, published or broadcast the verdict, many of which were later removed.
Various Australia media outlets followed suit, including the Herald Sun, the Age, Macquarie Media, Nine News in Melbourne, an ABC radio program outside Melbourne and the Australian.
The Herald Sun published perhaps the biggest story out of all the outlets, featuring a black front page with the word CENSORED in large white letters.
The one-page editorial said: “The Herald Sun is prevented from publishing details of this very significant news. But trust us, it’s a story you deserve to read”.
According to The Guardian, Kerri Judd QC, Victoria’s director of public prosecutions, has written to as many as 50 individual publishers, editors, broadcasters, reporters and subeditors accusing them of breaching the court ordered suppression.
All the publications who wrote about the Pell case were targeted as there was a blanket suppression on any information about the case, including there was a suppression order.
Show-cause notices were sent to the journalists in early February, accusing them of potentially interfering with the administration of justice and scandalising the court.
Journalists who do not have a strong enough explanation may be prosecuted and could face jail time.