A Queensland newspaper flouted the law to run a sensational media campaign about a court custody battle for commercial gain, a court has heard.
The Courier-Mail’s owner Queensland Newspapers is facing a $132,000 fine for identifying a family involved in an international custody dispute.
A sentencing hearing in the District Court in Brisbane on Friday heard the newspaper prominently published the names and photos of a mother and children involved in a Family Court dispute in four editions in May 2012.
The children’s names and photos were published on the newspaper’s front page in two consecutive editions.
Australian media are prohibited from identifying anyone involved in Family Court proceedings by laws designed to protect children and families.
Prosecutor Joshua Hanna said the journalists involved were warned multiple times about the reporting restrictions, including the day before the first article was published.
Mr Hanna said the newspaper engaged in a planned media campaign designed to engender sympathy for the children’s mother in the newspaper’s readership of more than 550,000.
“These proceedings were reported on and exploited in a certain way to sell newspapers,” he said.
Mr Hanna added the reporting contained inaccuracies about the case that undermined public confidence in the Family Court.
Defence barrister Jeff Hunter QC, for Queensland Newspapers, said there had been “significant errors of judgment”.
The procedures in place at the organisation to prevent such errors had failed, he said, adding the newspaper had made no apology in case it was seen as a “cynical attempt” to mitigate its penalty.
Justice Terence Martin is expected to pass sentence on Monday morning.