Crime & Justice

Judge refuses to drop media charges over Pell trial coverage

Sydney, Australia, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- The trial against nearly 30 Australian journalists and media organizations over coverage of the child sexual abuse trial of Cardinal George Pell will go ahead after a judge on Friday rejected a petition by the defendants that there is no case to answer.

The trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria began on Nov. 9 but was temporarily postponed in the face of a petition by the defense to throw out the case or dismiss certain charges.

Journalists and media groups have been charged with contempt of court for violating a gag order that prevented them from reporting on the trial against the Vatican’s former treasurer and number three.

Judge John Dixon of the Supreme Court of Victoria considered that the evidence provided by the Office of Public Prosecutions was sufficient to establish the possibility that the defendants violated this order.

In Friday’s hearing, the magistrate reduced the 87 contempt of court charges against media to 79 and said that the trial will resume on Jan. 28 and will last for two weeks, according to the virtual hearing in the city of Melbourne followed by EFE.

Victoria’s Office of Public Prosecutions allege that media breached the suppression order that prevented the publication of the December 2018 ruling that found Pell guilty of sexually abusing two minors in the 1990s.

In June 2018, an Australian judge barred media from reporting on the verdict against Pell to avoid influencing another pending trial against the Vatican’s former chief financial officer.

Following Pell’s conviction by a lower court in December 2018, several Australian media were charged with violating the gag order, which was lifted in February 2019 after the second trial was dropped.

Pell was later sentenced to six years in prison on five counts of sexual abuse, a ruling upheld in August 2019, but overturned in April by the country’s highest court.

All media and journalists have pleaded not guilty to charges that carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and fines of up to AU$500,000 ($364,600). EFE-EPA


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