Media to apologise to judge in person

·2-min read

Media companies that apologised to County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd for breaching his suppression order on Cardinal George Pell's child sexual abuse convictions will have do to it again in person.

A dozen media companies pleaded guilty to 21 charges of breaching the suppression order which prohibited reporting on the cardinal's since-overtured convictions.

The guilty pleas came after an agreement midway through a Supreme Court trial for prosecutors to drop dozens more charges against the companies, individual reporters and editors.

Lawyers for the companies, including News Corp, Nine and Mamamia, offered formal apologies to the courts and Chief Judge Kidd to signal remorse for contempt of court as well as agreeing to pay $650,000 in prosecution costs.

Justice John Dixon on Tuesday questioned in a pre-sentence hearing whether the apology to Chief Judge Kidd would be offered in person.

"It's not much of an apology if he just has to read it in the paper," he said.

Will Houghton QC, acting for News Corp, said they would arrange for a separate hearing in the County Court to make the apology in person.

"He deserves to hear it personally," he agreed.

During the hearing Mr Houghton said there were a series of mitigating factors which should be considered in determining the penalty.

Prosecutors have called for significant fines and convictions.

Mr Houghton said Justice Dixon had to consider that there were editorial systems in place for managing contempt of court risks, including seeking legal advice.

"The obtaining of legal advice, and the considered decision made by the editorial staff - while wrong - is a substantial mitigating feature," he said.

He conceded that the no-risk option would have been to publish nothing, but sad that was "not a fair or realistic yardstick".

Justice Dixon said it was either the legal advice or the judgment of editors that was the weakness in the system.

Matt Collins, representing Nine and Mamamia, said the case was unique in that it was the first time a report was said to have the potential to prejudice a future hearing without having named the accused or their charges.

The pre-sentence hearing is continuing.