Yahoo7 has been convicted and fined $300,000 after an inexperienced journalist published a story that led to a Melbourne murder trial being aborted.
Victorian Supreme Court Justice John Dixon on Friday slammed the online company for a “serious lack of proper oversight”.
The fine was intended to be a “real and financial imposition” to make it clear to Yahoo7 and other media companies that contempt of court was “intolerable”.
Justice Dixon earlier found Sydney-based reporter Krystal Johnson and Yahoo7 guilty of contempt of court for publishing details about a defendant that could prejudice a jury.
Ms Johnson, who was not in court, was ordered to undertake a two-year good behaviour bond.
Yahoo7 was also ordered to pay the Director of Public Prosecutions’ costs.
Justice Dixon found Ms Johnson felt genuine remorse and that Yahoo7 bore primary responsibility for the contempt, as it failed to ensure its systems for controlling and disseminating information about court cases were sufficient to stop prejudicial material being published.
The judge said Yahoo7 was preoccupied with commercial pressures, such as meeting deadlines and ensuring immediacy in reporting current affairs.
“Incentives in the form of larger audiences and substantial profits were at the forefront of Yahoo7’s considerations,” Justice Dixon said.
The article revealed material that had not been put before the jury in the first week of the murder trial of Mataio Aleluia.
Aleluia was later found guilty of murdering his girlfriend Brittany Harvie in a separate trial.
Ms Johnson promised the court through her lawyers to be on good behaviour for two years. Justice Dixon said that provided she did this, the contempt charge against her would be dismissed on February 17, 2019.
Yahoo7 is jointly owned by US group Yahoo! and Seven West Media.