Media companies plead guilty to breaching suppression order in Pell stories

Australian media companies have pleaded guilty to contempt of court over the way they reported George Pell’s conviction on sexual abuse charges.

Lawyers for more than 10 news outlets, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, told the Supreme Court on Monday their corporate clients would plead guilty to breaching a suppression order.

Cardinal George Pell.Credit:AP

However, as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, other charges against the news outlets and against 15 individual journalists, including the editors of some of the nation’s biggest newspapers, were withdrawn.

The charges relate to the way some sections of the Australian media reported Cardinal Pell’s conviction in December 2018 after a County Court trial.

The reports did not name Cardinal Pell or detail his charges but referred to a high-profile person being found guilty of serious charges, when the cardinal was still awaiting another trial.

The County Court had imposed a suppression order to ensure Cardinal Pell received a fair second trial. The second trial was later aborted by prosecutors.

Cardinal Pell had his convictions quashed and was released from prison last year following a successful appeal to the High Court.

The publications to have pleaded guilty also include the Herald Sun over an online article, the Australian Financial Review, Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph, The Advertiser in Adelaide, the Geelong Advertiser and The Courier Mail in Brisbane.

Other media companies included radio station 2GB, Channel Nine (a television station owned by Nine, which also owns this masthead) for segments aired on the Today program and websites Mamamia and Business Insider.

The news outlets are expected to face heavy fines for breaching the suppression order. The companies are to face a two-day plea hearing before Justice John Dixon next week.

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