What were they thinking at The Age and The Financial Review last week? Both papers ran stories last Thursday, May 1, which appear to have breached a suppression order made by Victorian Country Court judge Tim Wood last July in the case involving music promoter Glenn Wheatley and the high profile tax evasion crackdown Operation Wickenby.

The Age and Financial Review stories related to this individual facing charges in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Judge Wood’s order made on July 6 last year prevented the publication of the name of an individual and it also banned any photograph by the media of the person. According to Anne Stanford, who handles media for the Victorian courts, Judge Wood’s suppression order remained in place on May 1. Stanford sent an email at 3.25 pm on May 1 out to the media and its legal advisers alerting it to the fact in unambiguous terms:

Please be advised, the suppression order issued by Judge Wood, in the County Court last July, in the matter of Glenn Wheatley, pertaining to [Xxxx] STILL STANDS, until further notice.

Any formal application seeking to have it lifted should be made to Judge Wood. As of 3.20pm, May 1, no such applications have been made.

This email followed an earlier one containing the same information sent out at 8.34am on May 1 by Stanford. Stanford had no doubt seen The Age and Financial Review stories that morning and rightly thought she should remind the media of their obligations.

So why did Stanford have to send out a reminder email at 3.20pm on May 1? Because despite having been reminded of the existence of the suppression order that morning by Stanford, The Age published a story on its website which carried the time of 12.21pm May 1, and which referred again to the individual whose name had been suppressed!

Breaches of suppression orders are a serious matter and they can jeopardise both the rights of the prosecution and the defence. It may be that’s not the case here, but the actions of The Age and the Financial Review on May 1 were playing with fire, to say the least.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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