Court reporting

Media reporting - George Pell & regulations

Holly Friedlander Liddicoat, 17th January 2018

Charges against George Pell, alleging historical sexual offences, were filed on 29 June 2017.

It's important for all community broadcasters to understand their legal requirements when reporting on this and similar matters, including:

  1. Section 4 of the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958;
  2. Any non-publication orders in force in respect of this matter; and
  3. The principles of sub judice contempt.
Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958

Section 4 of the JPR Act makes it an offence to publish or cause to be published any particulars likely to lead to the identification of a person against whom a sexual offence is alleged to have been committed, whether or not a proceeding in respect of the alleged is pending in a court. See attached letter below for more detail.

Proceeding suppression order

A proceeding suppression order is currently in force in respect of this matter. The order prohibits publication of a number of matters including:

  1. The nature of the charges against the accused, save for the fact that they are historical sexual offences.

This could be, for example, a description of the allegations including the location and a description of the conduct.

Sub judice contempt

As this matter is currently before the courts, the principles of sub judice contempt apply. Reporting should therefore be limited to a fair and accurate report of proceedings. Reporting of opinions or speculation about George Pell's guilt or innocence, or his ability to receive a fair trial, offends the sub judice principle.

Get more information on this matter in this letter from Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Gavin Silbert QC: PDF iconLetter to Media.pdf

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