Court makes Meagher case ruling
A Melbourne court has ruled that material potentially prejudicial to the case against the alleged murderer of Irish woman Jill Meagher be removed from the internet.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Felicity Broughton yesterday ordered the removal of damaging material relating to Adrian Ernest Bayley (41), who is accused of the rape and murder of Ms Meagher.
The decision came after legal aid lawyers acting for Mr Bayley applied for suppression orders preventing the publication of any prejudicial material and images, photographs or likenesses of him.
Ms Broughton decided against banning the publication of Mr Bayley’s images as it was not clear that identity was an issue in the case.
The defence presented a huge amount of material from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to the court, which it said was incited hatred and vilification of the accused.
Ms Broughton said while the unregulated environment of the internet might mean any ban was futile, the courts had a duty to try to protect the criminal justice process.
Acknowledging there has been an extraordinary level of public and media interest in the case, Ms Broughton said mainstream media had reported the case responsibly and that the application had mostly been directed at non-mainstream material online.
Mr Bayley appeared by video link from prison for the hearing.
His lawyer, Helen Spowart, told the court that material vilifying her client could irreparably damage his chances for a fair trial. She said he had been labelled
in “sub-human terms” and the continued publication of the material could contaminate potential jurors.
Ms Meagher’s husband, Tom, has pleaded with people on social media to stop posting comments about Mr Bayley as they could affect the case.
Ms Meagher’s body was found in a shallow grave beside a dirt track in Gisborne South about 50 kilometres outside Melbourne on September 28th, six days after she was last seen on CCTV footage walking the short distance to her home after a night out with work colleagues in the suburb of Brunswick.
Mr Bayley is due to face court at a committal hearing scheduled for January 18th.
The suppression order will remain in force until then.