One tabloid, The Telegraph, published a front-page article on Thursday declaring “It’s the Nation’s Biggest Story” that it was not allowed to publish. “A high-profile Australian with a worldwide reputation has been convicted of an awful crime, The Telegraph wrote, adding, “but The Daily Telegraph and other Australian media are prohibited from telling you about it.”
Several other outlets published editorials on their front pages denouncing the news blackout in cryptic language that avoided direct references to Cardinal Pell or the verdict, prompting Chief Judge Peter Kidd to hold an impromptu hearing on Thursday, in which he called for prosecutors to initiate legal proceedings against journalists for contempt of court.
“A number of very important people in the media are facing, if found guilty, the prospect of imprisonment, and indeed substantial imprisonment,” Judge Kidd said, according to a transcript released by the court.
The maximum sentence for contempt, he said, is five years in prison.
Mr. Garabedian said the church benefits from court secrecy. “The suppression order plays into the secrecy, which the Catholic Church thrives on when it comes to the issue of clergy sexual abuse,” he said.
Other elements of the case have also been kept secret, in part because of privacy laws. Despite repeated requests to the court, news media outlets were refused access to the testimony from the former altar boy who is the case’s main complainant, live or in transcript.
He cannot be identified publicly under a provision in Australian law designed to protect victims of childhood sexual abuse.
During the trial, however, the prosecution’s main lawyer, Mark Gibson, read out parts of the complainant’s testimony. In that statement he described how Cardinal Pell shoved him to the floor and pushed his erect penis into his mouth.