20 October 2013


In The Queen v Hinch (No 2) [2013] VSC 554 Victorian shockjock Derryn Hinch has received a fine of $100,000 after being found guilty in The Queen v Hinch [2013] VSC 520 of one charge of contempt of court.

Hinch is apparently now calling on the public for donations to cover that fine and his costs. (The judgment notes his income of $200,000 plus and nearly $2m assets.)

Kaye J in the current judgment comments that
The principles, which apply to the question of sentence for a proven contempt of court, are well established and are not in dispute. Essentially, they reflect the principles which apply to sentencing for criminal offences.
The fundamental function of punishment, for the contempt which you have committed, is to uphold and preserve the undisturbed and orderly administration of justice in the courts according to law. The principal purposes of sentences for contempt, which are designed to achieve that end, include specific deterrence, general deterrence and denunciation. Bearing in mind those purposes, the considerations, which are relevant to the imposition of a sentence for contempt, include the objective seriousness of the particular contempt, the context in which the contempt occurred, whether any harm was occasioned by the contempt, the subjective culpability of the person convicted of the contempt, the character and antecedents of the contemnor, and whether any apology has been made by the contemnor for the contempt.
Considered objectively, the contempt committed by you was serious. It consisted of the intentional publication by you of material on the internet which contravened the suppression order made by Nettle JA in four respects. As I stated, collectively, the publication in question constituted a significant breach by you of the orders by Nettle JA.
In that regard, it is important to bear in mind that the orders made by Nettle JA were in relation to serious criminal charges against Bayley which were then before a court. The murder of Gillian Meagher by Bayley had attracted a significant amount of publicity. Understandably, the circumstances, in which the murder had taken place, evoked strong feelings of revulsion and disgust among the community. As a consequence, it was necessary for the court to pronounce orders in the form made by Nettle JA, in order to protect the right of Bayley to a fair trial of the charges which were the subject of the first proceeding. In that context, the breach by you of the orders of Nettle JA was, objectively, particularly serious.
Hinch has famously and recurrently disregarded measures to protect victims and assist the administration of justice through restrictions on publication.

Kaye J commented that
In the course of giving evidence on your plea, you tendered an apology for the contempt of court, of which I have convicted you. On your behalf, Mr Gilbertson submitted that your apology was sincere, and that, in making it, you have demonstrated genuine contrition for the offence of which you have been convicted.
In a case such as this, the tendering of an apology may be a factor of substantial weight. It is particularly relevant to the question of specific deterrence, if, by the tendering of such an apology, you have demonstrated sufficient recognition of your wrongdoing, and that you will not re-offend. Secondly, an apology, if accompanied with true contrition, may offset the subjective culpability of the contempt of court. Thirdly, a truly remorseful apology may be relevant to the issue of general deterrence, since it is a factor material to the assessment of the objective gravity of the particular offence.
In your case, the question of the sincerity of the apology, made by you in court, must be considered in light of your conduct between the date, on which I pronounced my reasons for convicting you, and the date of the plea which was made on your behalf, and in light of the evidence which you gave on your plea.
In this context, it is significant that, almost immediately after I had published my reasons for finding you guilty of one charge of contempt of court, you participated in a live media interview on the steps of this Court. At that stage, you had not read the reasons which I gave for convicting you. In the interview, you immediately maintained that you were innocent, and that you did not think that you had done anything wrong. You described yourself as being “a scapegoat and a whipping boy”.
Shortly after, and on the same date, you then published a “news flash” on your website, in which you again maintained your innocence. Five days later, on 7 October, you posted a comment on your “Twitter” feed, in which you continued to assert that you were an “innocent scapegoat”.
The submissions on sentence were made before me on 11 October. As I stated, in the course of those submissions, you made an apology for the contempt of court, of which you had been convicted. In the course of your evidence, you were asked a number of questions, both by myself and by Mr Langmead, in relation to the sincerity of your apology, and, in particular, in relation to the allegations, which you had made, out of court, that you were a “scapegoat” and a “whipping boy”. It is significant that when you were pressed on that issue, you could not, and would not, identify the person, or persons, who, you alleged, had made you a “scapegoat”. The allegation made by you out of court was serious in a number of respects. In particular, it was an allegation, made on two occasions, that someone in the justice system had deliberately attempted to transfer the legal fault of others onto the shoulders of an innocent person, that person being you. That being so, it is significant that when you were pressed on your allegation, you could not, and would not, identify the person, or persons, who you had maintained had made you a scapegoat. The answers, which you gave to questions put to you on that issue, were entirely evasive and unsatisfactory. It was clear that you had been prepared to make a serious allegation and insinuation out of court, which you could not, and would not, substantiate in court.
Pausing there, it is important for me to make it clear that there is absolutely no substance in the allegations, which you made out of court. The circumstances, in which you were charged for contempt of court, were set out in affidavits sworn in support of the application to have you convicted for contempt of court. Those affidavits were not challenged by cross-examination, or otherwise. The simple facts are that the solicitors for Bayley informed the media liaison officer of this Court of your article. That officer, as was her duty, notified the Judge’s Associate of that matter. The Judge’s Associate, as was his duty, brought the matter to the attention of the judge. In those circumstances, the Judge had no alternative than to direct the Prothonotary, under rule 75.07, to commence proceedings for contempt of court against you. The Prothonotary was legally bound to comply with that direction. Those facts unequivocally rebut your allegation that you have been made a “scapegoat” and a “whipping boy”. As I say, no attempt was made by you, or your counsel, to challenge those facts in court in this case.
The matters, to which I have just referred, are important. In particular, it is clear that, since your conviction, you have been attempting, out of court, to justify your unlawful and criminal conduct, by wrongly blaming some other person or persons for the charges, which had been properly brought against you. That conduct, by you out of court, is an important factor in determining whether you have achieved any insight into your wrongdoing, and as to whether I can have any sufficient degree of assurance that you will not re-offend again.
In the course of your evidence, you were also pressed, both by Mr Langmead and myself, as to the sincerity of your apology. On more than one occasion, you did apologise for breaking the law, but at the same time you maintained that you believed you had not done anything wrong. I paid close attention to the evidence which you gave in that respect, and to the manner in which you gave it. Having given the matter careful consideration, I am not satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that your apology was given to the court with true contrition for your wrongdoing. Indeed, in light of your conduct out of court, and the manner in which you gave your evidence, I am satisfied that you are not genuinely remorseful for your conduct.