Australian media's bid to end Pell contempt case fails

·1-min read
Australian Cardinal George Pell's convictions for sex crimes were overturned

An Australian judge on Friday rejected an application to dismiss charges against dozens of journalists and news organisations for allegedly violating a gag order on Cardinal George Pell's sex crimes case.

Several of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp mastheads as well as former Fairfax group newspapers, now owned by broadcaster Nine, are among those accused of breaching court orders barring reporting on Pell's now-quashed convictions.

A trial began in November, when lawyers for the media asked judge John Dixon to rule they had no case to answer.

Dixon rejected the bulk of the application in a ruling handed down Friday, although he did strike out eight of the 87 charges that prosecutors originally brought.

However, all accused editorial staff members and media organisations will still face trial for contempt of court.

They include reporters, editors and broadcasters, who face potential prison sentences, while the media companies could be hit with hefty fines.

All of the accused deny the charges and their trial will resume on January 28.

The case stems from a suppression order in December 2018 to prevent news of Pell's convictions from prejudicing jurors in an expected second trial on child sex abuse charges that were subsequently dropped in early 2019.

But the order meant Pell's 2018 convictions for abusing two choirboys in the 1990s -- which were overturned in April this year -- initially could not be reported in Australia, including on the internet.