It was a bitterly cold Melbourne morning and one of the biggest press packs seen in Melbourne for years was on hand to see Steve Vizard “cop it on the chin” before Justice Ray Finkelstein in the Federal Court.

The heavies came down from Sydney. Michael Pascoe was there doing a one-day freelance gig for Seven and Emma Alberici was down for The 7:30 Report, which is promising some explosive revelations tonight.

All up there were about 70 media hacks on hand with the ABC winning the head-count competition with about a dozen, including finance reporter Stephen Long who was also down from Sydney.

Vizard attracts all this publicity because his story spans business, politics, media and entertainment. This led to Nine’s political reporter David Broadbent fronting up, and even Stephen Fennely, the former ABC arts correspondent was in the jam-packed public gallery of court one, the biggest available to the Federal Court in Melbourne, which can hold more than 110 people.

The only missing element was the business commentariat – Alan Kohler, Stephen Bartholomeusz, John Durie and Terry McCrann all failed to brave the cold of the press pack to take it all in first hand.

Camp Vizard reserved the front two rows or some 24 spots and his spin doctors, Mike Smith and David Wilson from Inside PR, were in place early with copies of the Vizard statement in their briefcase waiting for Justice Finkelstein to give the all clear for their distribution.

The media is ever-present in these big celebrity cases so it was no surprise when a junior barrister representing “media organisations” leapt to her feet shortly after proceedings began at 10:30am and started arguing that all documents be made available immediately.

Despite some concern about some commercially sensitive material from Telstra, it was agreed by all parties that everything would be released at the conclusion of proceedings when the judge reserves his decision.

The Vizard evidence was all done and dusted by 11:45am and Neil Young QC was on his feet through until lunch time, largely repeating most of the material that we already know about from the agreed statement of facts tendered with the court on 4 July.

The cameras captured Vizard leaving his Toorak mansion shortly before 9am this morning and an ABC camera crew was even chased away by the police from outside Greg Lay’s home in Churnside Park this morning after the neighbours complained.

After gathering his thoughts with his legal team, Vizard showed up just after 10am flanked by two lawyers. “Mr Vizard won’t be making any comment,” one of the barristers said as the rolling scrum slowed his progress down considerably.

It came as no surprise that Vizard’s polished brother Andrew ripped into the press for hounding the family as he attempted to paint his brother as someone who has already suffered hugely in the court of public opinion.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey