Justice Robert Beech-Jones delivers his decision in the Eddie Obeid sentencing. Harriet Wran, with her mother and Jill Wran, following her release from prison. Photo: Nick Moir
The judge who jailed Eddie Obeid rejected the former Labor MP’s claims that “humiliating” media coverage should reduce his punishment, distinguishing it from the high-profile Harriet Wran trial where the court was scathing of media reports.
Obeid’s legal team argued the 73-year-old former minister had already been punished as a result of “extensive media coverage which … humiliated him” and distressed his family, Supreme Court Justice Robert Beech-Jones noted.
Media coverage has been taken into account in sentencing offenders in some high-profile trials.
In July this year, Supreme Court Justice Ian Harrison launched a blistering attack on the media’s coverage of the Harriet Wran trial. He singled out the The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph for the bulk of his criticism.
Justice Harrison said the “sustained and unpleasant” campaign against Ms Wran, daughter of former NSW Premier Neville Wran, should reduce her punishment for robbery in company and being an accessory after the fact to murder.
The reports amounted to a “gross invasion” of her privacy and could impede her “recovery from her ongoing mental health and drug-related problems”.
But Justice Beech-Jones said that Wran, unlike Obeid, “was not a public figure and her offending did not involve the abuse of any public position”.
Reports on the Obeid trial did “not sensationalise facts that are either irrelevant or trivial to the offending conduct” and were “concerned with an issue of public importance, namely, political corruption”.
“In those circumstances it seems incongruous that the consequential public humiliation should mitigate the sentence,” he said.
Justice Beech-Jones said media reportage would only be taken into account if it had a “physical or psychological effect” on the offender.
In this case, there was no evidence to that effect. Obeid was affected only in a “relatively limited sense” because of his family’s distress at media reports.
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