Dozens of journalists and main information retailers in Australia have begun defending accusations that they breached a reporting ban on the sexual abuse trial of Cardinal George Pell.
Pell, the ex-Vatican treasurer, was convicted in December of abusing two boys in 1996. The media was barred from reporting the decision till February.
Prosecutors say 23 journalists and 13 publishers dedicated contempt of court docket.
The case may have a “chilling impact” on “open justice”, defence legal professionals say.
If discovered responsible, the defendants withstand 5 years in jail and fines of about A$96,000 (£52,000; $69,000).
They embody journalists from a lot of Australia’s largest information organisations, together with the editors of newspapers The Age and the Herald Solar, in addition to outstanding TV and radio presenters.
Defence barrister Matthew Collins informed a court docket on Monday that the case was unprecedented in Australian authorized historical past.
What occurred final yr?
A choose banned the media from reporting on Pell’s trial, as a way to stop any affect on a deliberate second trial.
In December, the cardinal was convicted by a jury of sexually abusing two choir boys in Melbourne in 1996.
The decision prompted many Australian media retailers to publish articles that referred to the case ultimately – though none named Pell. A number of non-Australian publications did determine him.
The reporting ban, generally known as a suppression order, was lifted earlier this yr after prosecutors dropped the deliberate second trial.
Pell has launched an attraction towards his conviction.
What occurred on Monday?
Mr Collins, who’s representing all 36 defendants, informed a court docket that none of his shoppers’ media stories had recognized Pell or the fees he had confronted.
“They did not reference the cardinal – simply referred to the truth that there was a broader story that might not be informed,” Mr Collins mentioned, in response to Reuters.
He added that the defendants have been “not fringe gamers” however relatively mainstream information organisations with no historical past of breaching court docket orders.
Prosecutors alleged that native media protection had “aided and betted the abroad media’s contempt”. Retailers exterior Australian jurisdiction aren’t going through authorized motion.
Decide John Dixon mentioned he was nonetheless to determine the whether or not case ought to contain one or 36 trials, or “one thing in between”.
The listening to was adjourned till 26 June.
The case follows a lot debate in Australia over the effectiveness of suppression orders within the web age.