Prosecutors Seek Complete Ban On Media Reporting Of Cardinal George Pell Trial

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After Wednesday you may not hear about the trial of one of the world’s most senior Catholic Church officials again, until it’s over. And you won’t even hear about why you’re not hearing about it. Chris Graham reports.

On Friday, the Victorian Department of Public Prosecutions lodged an application with the Country Court of Victoria for a ‘super injunction’ against media coverage of the trial of Cardinal George Pell, who is accused of a number of historical sexual offences.

Cardinal Pell – the Vatican’s treasurer and the third highest ranked Catholic in the world – was committed to stand trial a fortnight ago.

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The orders being sought by the DPP, which will be decided on Wednesday morning in the County Court in Melbourne before Chief Judge Peter Kidd, are:

(1)      Publication is prohibited of any report of the whole or any part of these proceedings and any information derived from this proceeding and any court documents associated with this proceeding.

(2)     The prohibition on publication applies within all States and Territories of Australia and on any website or other electronic or broadcast format accessible within Australia.

(3)      For the purpose of this order, ‘publication’ has the meaning attributed to it by s3 of the Open Courts Act, that is to say, it means the dissemination or provision of access to the public by any means including, publication in a book, newspaper, magazine or other written publication, or broadcast by radio or television; or public exhibition; or broadcast or electronic communication.

(4)      The order will expire upon a jury verdict in respect of the charges on the final indictment, or by further order of the court.

Ordinarily, an injunction against media reporting of a trial prevents outlets from reporting the details of the trial. But they can report the existence of the injunction and explain to readers why they’re not reporting the matter.

The order that the DPP is seeking in the Pell matter is so broad that it will operate as a super injunction. The suppression order would be ‘any part of’ the proceedings, meaning the trial could not be reported, nor could media report the fact they’re not allowed to report. If Wednesday’s application for a super injunction is successful, this story will have to be removed from publication.

While ‘super injunctions’ have, traditionally, been a relatively uncommon mechanism in the courts, they’re becoming increasingly popular, particularly in Victoria.

Cardinal Pell, aged 76, is the most senior Catholic charged with sexual offences anywhere in the world. Cardinal Pell has strongly denied the allegations levelled against him.

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Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. Chris has won a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards for his reporting. He lives in Brisbane and splits his time between Stradbroke Island, where New Matilda is based, and the mainland.

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