Melbourne (PTI): The Australian radio station that made a hoax call to a London hospital treating a pregnant Kate Middleton in 2012 after which an India-origin nurse committed suicide broke the law, a high court ruled today, paving the way for penalties, including possible licence revocation.
Jacintha Saldanha, 46, had accepted the hoax call from 2Day FM DJs — Michael Christian and Mel Greig — purporting to be Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II, before passing it on to a colleague who divulged details of Kate’s morning sickness.
Saldanha was found dead in the nursing accommodation of London’s King Edward VII hospital, days after staff were tricked into giving details of Kate’s pregnancy.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) launched an investigation into the station following a prank phone conversation which aired in December 2012. The ACMA had ruled that the station had breached New South Wales surveillance and broadcasting laws by airing the call without the consent of the other party.
The ruling was challenged by the radio station in a Federal Court, which found the authority had no power to determine matters of a criminal nature.
The ACMA then appealed against the Federal Court decision in High Court which today ruled in favour of the media watchdog noting that the body did have power to make an “administrative determination” that the station had committed a criminal offence, as a preliminary to taking enforcement action under the Broadcasting Services Act.
The ruling has paved the way for penalties to be imposed on the radio station, which could now be fined or see its license suspended or revoked, reports said.
In February 2013, the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service said there was no evidence to support a charge of manslaughter against the two DJs.
At an inquest into Saldanha’s death, Coroner Fiona Wilcox concluded that the hoax call had been “clearly pressing on her mind” but that she had had “appropriate” support from the hospital.
The two presenters, Greig and Christian, had apologised for their actions in the wake of the scandal. Greig attended the inquest into Saldanha’s death at London’s High Court last year