The Queen of Criticising Things

Justice King, who recently described herself (to a jury!) as the Queen of Banning Things, seems to have taken a lead from the Court of Appeal, who recently saw fit to judge, not only the validity of her suppression orders, but also Channel Nine more generally and Underbelly in particular.

The latest suppression order (against Seven rather than Nine) differs from the Underbelly case in that it involves a single programme, shown during the trial and not, it seems, involving any actors or music (though I suspect that there’ll be some salacious behaviour and humour, intentional or otherwise.)  What is actually in the programme must now be a mystery, because the content and subject-matter of Today Tonight’s “Crime Mums” segments are also, naturally, suppressed. But how likely is it that the show says anything about Evan Goussis?

Actually, all we are allowed to know about the show is what one Victorian judge thinks of it. The Age tells us:

Justice Betty King said yesterday the interview between Barbara Williams and Judith Moran was another example of glorifying the gangland war.

“The educational value of this program is non-existent, the public interest in having it played is virtually non-existent,” she said.

Justice King also urged media organisations to examine closely the glorification of men in the relevant families as “celebrities”.

In a heated debate with Will Houghton, QC, for Channel Seven, she said she had not received an answer about why the program had to be aired during the trial of Evangelos Goussis, who has pleaded not guilty to murdering Lewis Moran.

Mr Houghton said the prosecution and defence counsel in the Goussis case had blown the substance of the proposed program out of all proportion.

He said it was “a chat between a reporter and two bereaved mothers”.

Justice King replied: “You must have watched a different program to me … I might describe it as a lot of other things, but that certainly wouldn’t spring to my mind.”

On Monday, Justice King described the program as “bizarre” and “poor”.

So, media. Lift your game! Free speech is only for high quality programmes. They really ought to change the ad for appointments to the Victorian judiciary to make it clear that advanced skills in literary criticism are a prerequisite for the job. Personally, I’d take Nancy Banks-Smith‘s judgment on Crime Mums over Betty King’s any day.

It also seems that there’s no prejudice to anyone’s fair trial in criticising the key players as ‘gangsters’ or questioning a description of the mother of the murder victim as ‘bereaved’. Apparently, such opinions are only dangerous when they come out of a TV. Or maybe when they say nice things about alleged or proven criminals and their families.

Of course, the Charter doesn’t currently apply to Justice King, due to Charter ss. 4(1)(j) and 49(2). In a future trial – and if the Charter s. 6(2)(b) argument gets up – we’ll doubtless see a complete transformation as Justice King becomes emeshed in the glorious human rights culture.

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