Major media players to fight Pell case

The DPP wants 36 organisations and individuals found in contempt for prejudicing the Pell trial.
The DPP wants 36 organisations and individuals found in contempt for prejudicing the Pell trial.

Some of Australia's top media editors and journalists could face prison over allegations they breached suppression orders and prejudiced the sexual abuse trial of Cardinal George Pell.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has named 36 organisations and individuals in a motion before the Victorian Supreme Court, asking they be found guilty of contempt of court and imprisoned and/or fined.

The list includes Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston, The Age editor Alex Lavelle, Sydney radio shock-jock Ray Hadley and Today show host Deborah Knight.

Organisations are standing by their stories.

"Nine and the named employees deny the allegations but as the matter is now before the courts Nine will not comment further at this time," a spokeswoman said of the claims against the network, which now also owns Fairfax.

A News Corp spokeswoman said the publisher was aware of charges against a number of companies and journalists.

"We will vigorously defend all charges and resolutely stand by our editors and journalists," she said.

Pell was found guilty in December of orally raping a boy and molesting another when he was the newly installed Archbishop of Melbourne at St Patrick's Cathedral in 1996.

But the verdict was suppressed until February when prosecutors decided not to proceed with a second trial.

The DPP issued "show-cause" notices to multiple media outlets after some alluded to the verdict while the suppression was still in place, without actually naming Pell.

The suppression order was also breached overseas, though no foreign media are named in the motion.

County Court Judge Peter Kidd, who ordered the suppression, was furious at the breaches and left contempt charges to prosecutors.

On Tuesday documents revealed they had applied for guilty findings against the organisations, editors, journalists and presenters for breaching the suppression order, contempt of court, aiding and abetting overseas media, and for publications that "had the effect of scandalising the court".

They are seeking orders of imprisonment, fines as an additional or alternative penalty and convictions.

Supreme Court Justice John Dixon will hear the application on April 15.

Australian Associated Press