Media coverage earns DPP contempt warning

from page 6 of The Australian, May 1, 1996

by Chip Le Grand

  The Tasmanian Director of Public Prosecutions has fore-shadowed contempt proceedings against the media for its coverage of the Port Arthur shooting.
  The DPP, Mr Damian Bugg QC, placed all media outlets "on notice" yesterday that he would pursue contempt action against any broadcaster or publication whose coverage of the tragedy prejudiced the trial of the alleged gunman, who was charged yesterday with one count of murder.
  The move by the DPP came after leading newspapers, including The Australian, The Age and the Herald Sun in Melbourne, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Courier Mail in Queensland, The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, the Adelaide Advertiser, The West Australian and Hobart's The Mercury, ran pictures of Martin Bryant on the front page.
  Mr Bugg indicated sensational coverage of the shooting, particularly in the local press, could be used by the defence to apply for a permanent stay of prosecution or a change of venue.
  "I must put you on notice that if the trial of this person is in any way prejudiced, either the prosecution or the defence of it, or it if is considered it has been some perversion of the course of justice due to sensational coverage of this matter, then I will have to give serious consideration to prosecution," Mr Bugg told journalists.
  He said he was "contemplating already" material published about the massacre for the subject of contempt charges.
  "I have written to media outlets. They know what they have published, they know what the clear guidelines are in this State, and I would expect that those who haven't taken legal advice ought to be doing so now."
  In a letter yesterday to the The Mercury, Mr Bugg listed identifying photographs of the alleged gunman and speculation on the mental health of the accused as coverage which risked being in contempt.

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