Harriet Wran is escorted from the Supreme Court
Harriet Wran is escorted from the Supreme Court

The daughter of a former NSW premier is sentenced. The Daily Telegraph yesterday:

“Harriet Wran will walk free from jail within three weeks, after being sentenced to two years in jail for accessory after the fact of murder and robbery in company.”

The Tele on July 10:

“The day after the murder of Daniel McNulty, fugitives Harriet Wran and her boyfriend Michael Lee stunned their housemate when they retreated to his bedroom to have ‘very loud’ sex after watching a news report about the killing.”

Same paper, on March 13:

“Lonely in an isolated jail cell, Harriet Wran penned a heartfelt letter to a former boyfriend saying she wished she could live in a world where the drug ice didn’t exist …

“In the letter, Wran also complained about “getting fat” in jail but was “super excited” about the prospect of being allowed to study a degree in ancient history by correspondence while behind bars.”

There’s more, but let’s leave it there. The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday:

“In sentencing Wran on Tuesday, Justice Ian Harrison was scathing about the ‘humiliating’ media attention Wran had received particularly in The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph.”

Justice Ian Harrison’s judgement yesterday:

“The articles and allegations within them were picked up and repeated in other news organisations including online versions of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Mail. Ms Wran is not able to anticipate when or if this gratuitous campaign will end.

“The media interest has focused on Ms Wran’s family background and her physical appearance. The intense media attention is disproportionate to her involvement in the relevant events. She submitted that it is therefore appropriate significantly to mitigate her sentence in these circumstances …

“In my opinion the publication of these egregious articles warrants the imposition of a sentence that takes account … the unavoidable spectre of enduring damage to her reputation.”

So the Tele bears part of the blame for the brevity of Wran’s sentence. The paper responds:

“[R]ather than the wrath of the court being brought down on the guilty party, it was The Daily Telegraph and sister publication The Sunday Telegraph that suddenly found themselves on trial.

“’Ms Wran has been subjected to a sustained and unpleasant campaign by some of the daily newspapers circulating in Sydney,’ said Judge Harrison. With the greatest of respect, we would submit that neither The Daily Telegraph nor The Sunday Telegraph have ever been involved in anything as sustained and unpleasant as the murderous assault that left Daniel McNulty dead …

“[W]e stand by our reporting and the presentation of that reporting … [W]e do not believe it is the court’s role to consider questions of media taste.

“That is the public’s role, and they deliver verdicts every day through newspaper sales and website views.”

Meanwhile, from another ruling by Harrison on why he opposed News Corp’s bid for access to those who provided the court with references for Wran:

“I have no confidence, based upon the newspaper’s past performance, that it will not proceed to treat Ms Wran’s referees in the same unpleasant and misleading fashion in which it has already treated her. One could be excused for forming the view that The Daily Telegraph has some form of vendetta against Ms Wran. There is no reason to assume that, if the opportunity arose, her referees might not also soon become victims of the very same campaign.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey