Media companies have admitted they breached a suppression order in publishing details of Cardinal George Pell’s since overturned conviction for child sexual abuse.
Dozens of companies, reporters and editors were charged with contempt and breaching suppression orders over their coverage of the conviction, which was banned from publication in Australia until February 2019.
Cardinal Pell’s five convictions have since been overturned by the High Court and he has returned to Rome.
A contempt of court trial has been underway in Victoria’s Supreme Court since November last year, beginning two years after charges were first laid.
But the case resolved on Monday after the corporations agreed to plead guilty to breaching a suppression order made by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd.
Lawyers for the media companies entered formal guilty pleas on behalf of companies including News Corp, Nine, former Fairfax publications, Mamamia and Radio 2GB.
The breaches were in news stories that appeared in print and online versions of the Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald and on the Today Show and Sydney’s 2GB radio.
In exchange, prosecutors have agreed to drop all other charges, including against all individuals, including The Age editor Alex Lavelle who gave evidence at the trial last week.
“Given the plea and acceptance of responsibility in respect of each publication, and other matters relevant to an assessment of the public interest, the Director (of Public Prosecutions) has determined that it is in the public interest to withdraw the remaining charges,” prosecutor Lisa Di Ferrari told the court on Monday afternoon.
Those charges include charges of sub judice contempt against the corporations, and contempt and breach of suppression order charges against all the individuals charged.
The court heard the media companies would pay the cost of the prosecution.
A pre-sentence hearing is expected to take place next week.