17 February 2017

News publisher convicted of contempt of court

A major news publisher has today been fined $300,000 and convicted of contempt of court following a civil proceeding brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

DPP John Champion S.C. issued the proceeding following the abandonment of a murder trial in the Supreme Court after an article containing material that was not the subject of evidence before the jury was published on the Yahoo!7 news website.

The jury empanelled in the trial of Mataio Jordan Aleluia on one count of murder of Brittany Harvie was discharged after the article, written and posted online by Yahoo 7 journalist Krystal Johnson, was discovered to reveal allegations of previous violence perpetrated by the accused against the victim.

The trial judge discharged the jury to avoid the risk of unfair prejudice to the accused.

In the civil proceeding, Yahoo!7 and Ms Johnson were found guilty of contempt of court by the Supreme Court on 28 November 2016.

In its judgment the Court said the article had the effect of bringing to the reader’s attention facts that they were not otherwise entitled to know and which were prejudicial to the accused’s right to a fair trial.

The Court today convicted and fined Yahoo!7, and imposed a two-year good behaviour bond on Ms Johnson.

Mr Champion said the judgment was a timely reminder of the need for media outlets to be very vigilant with respect to the material they publish in relation to current criminal trials.

Read the full judgment here.

For further information contact:

Anthony Loncaric

03 9603 2603