I have been reflecting about the differences between the Australian and Canadian judicial systems.
Last year Q107 co-host and program producer Derek Welsman made remarks on the air about a case where he served as foreman of a jury. The person on trail was found guilty of sexually assaulting three men he had met at a bathhouse, but the comments made by this morning show may have jeopardized the conviction, because the convicted man’s lawyer is now seeking a judicial inquiry into the juror’s conduct, alleging Welsman’s on air comments showed that he was biased against gay men and prejudged the case.
Three days after the Sept. 27, 2013 verdict, Welsman talked on-air about what jurors had to decide before making their guilty finding. But in Canada, like in many countries, it is against the law for jurors to disclose details of their deliberations. To date, the broadcaster has not been charged.
Corus initially suspended the show in December, but by early January 2014 cancelled the show and announced the station would be going in a new direction.
In Melbourne, Australia, controversial broadcaster Derryn Hinch was found guilty last October of breaching a non-publication order relating to details of a murder trial, and for not removing the story from his blog after a suppression order was imposed. The judge in the case accused Hinch of deliberately undermining justice in Victoria. He was fined $100,000 or told he would go to jail for 50 days. Hench refused to pay the fine and was arrested on 17 January and taken to jail.
Perhaps the Canadian judicial system is still looking into the Derek Welsman matter and may still take action, especially if the conviction is overturned.
To be fair, there is more to the Australian story, and Hinch is also no stranger to controversy. If you would like to read why Hinch chose to go to jail you can read about it here
Perhaps what we can take away from both cases is that, as broadcasters, we have an obligation to obey the law. Having a microphone or a blog does not make us above the law and we cannot abuse our power or privilege.