New Matilda had been planning to publish a major new feature as part of an ongoing investigative series into the sexual misconduct of men in powerful positions.
The story was slated for publication yesterday, and was based in large part on a leaked copy of a 60-page report produced by the Catholic Church, which had investigated allegations against Graeme Lyall AM – an icon in the Australian jazz industry – while he was a music teacher at a Catholic school in 2010.
The report – produced under the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing protocol, its official mechanism for dealing with allegations related to sexual, emotional and physical abuse – is now the subject of a suppression order issued by the District Court of South Australia.
For this reason, the details of the report cannot be disclosed.
As a result, New Matilda is re-investigating the matter over the Christmas break. We hope to finish a new feature independent of the findings of the report by early to mid January.
In the meantime, in line with New Matilda’s policy of publishing all threats issued against this publication, below is the correspondence received from Mr Lyall’s lawyers, along with New Matilda’s response.
FROM: Bill DeGaris, De Garis Lawyers
SENT: Sunday, 17 December 2017 at 11:23 am
TO: Chris Graham, New Matilda
CC: Mr Graeme William Lyall (Plaintiff)
PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL:
Dear Mr Graham,
Given that you only contacted Mr Lyall for “comment” on Friday, and given your threat to publish an article based on the Catholic Church Confidential Report (“Report”) involving Mr Lyall tomorrow, Monday 18th December, we corresponded with you by email twice on Friday 15thDecember. I served you with the Copy of the SA Distract Court Order against Ms Matilda Duncan, of which you claimed you were unaware.
I also had a short telephone conversation with you, bringing the existence of the Order to your attention.
I wish to confirm with you that we are instructed to bring proceedings for contempt of the Court Order should you in any way attempt to refer to, or rely on the Confidential Report, or publish in defiance of the Court Order. Our reasons have been set out previously to you and include:
- The only credible source of the Confidential Report, which you confirm you have read, is Ms Matilda Duncan. If not directly, then indirectly she has furnished you with the Report. Any credible journalist would rapidly reach the conclusion that the only source of the Report was Ms Duncan. I have canvassed that previously, when you claimed your journalists right to protection of sources. Ms Duncan is the only possible source, directly, or indirectly.
- Ms Duncan is restrained from publishing or circulating the Report, directly or indirectly.
- You now have a copy of the Court Order, and are fully aware of its contents.
- The questions you posed to Mr Lyall are based on matters referred to in the Report. However, the questions also relate to other matters clearly aired by Ms Duncan which are not referred to in the Report, such as the allegation relating to the UniSA, and James Morrison Academy. Those matters have only been raised by Ms Duncan (who, by the way, never attended the JMA at UniSA.) It is an inescapable conclusion you have spoken with Ms Duncan.
- In your conversation with me on the phone, you referred to having read Ms Duncan’s diary. Clearly that has come directly from Ms Duncan, and is not something in the public domain. This strengthens my belief that Ms Duncan has clearly been the source of the Report to you, directly or indirectly.
By you publishing any part of the Report, or relying on any allegations, investigations, “facts” or other material set out in the Confidential report, you will clearly compromise the Court Order and the Confidentiality of the Report.
Just to be clear, you stated to me that the Court Order does not bind you, and that you had taken “legal advice” to that effect.
That is not the case at all. I suggest that you, and your advisors, read the annexed extract from a Westlaw AU publication, “Injunctions Law and Practice,” where it is clearly stated that;
“where it is asserted that a stranger to the litigation is guilty of contempt, it must be shown that there was a wilful interference with the administration of justice, ie an intention on his part to interfere with, or impede the administration of justice., That intention can be inferred.”
I have provided you with a copy of the Court Order, of which you electronically acknowledged receipt. I have provided you with strong reasons, at least on the balance of probability, but closer I suggest to beyond reasonable doubt, that the source material you have alleged you rely on has come directly, or at least indirectly from Ms Duncan.
In the circumstances if you proceed to publish on the basis of the Report, we will bring contempt proceedings against both Ms Duncan, you and your publisher. This ought to be communicated to your publisher immediately.
THIS LETTER AND EMAIL CONTENTS WILL BE TENDERED TO THE COURT ON THE ISSUE OF PUNISHMENT OF THOSE HELD IN CONTEMPT OF THE DISRICT COURT ORDERS SERVED ON YOU, AND WILL BE TENDERED ON THE ISSUE OF COSTS.
Lyall DeGaris reply 1