60 Minutes legal stoush heats up amid document leaks to the media

The legal stoush between former 60 Minutes producer Stephen Rice and his former employer the Nine Network has heated up with a series of leaked documents surfacing across the media today.

Reporter Tara Brown and to her left Stephen Rice. Source: Nine News.

Reporter Tara Brown and to her left Stephen Rice. Source: Nine News.

The Daily Telegraph this morning revealed internal emails which showed the two most senior staff at 60 Minutes, Kirsty Thomson and Tom Malone, and a Nine Network lawyer knew the details of the plan to conduct a “child recovery” operation in order to help Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner retrieve her two children from Lebanon.

An email from Thomson to Malone and Rice on January 18 describes how the story got picked up and that it was originally going to be done by sister program Inside Story.

“IS (Inside Story) were going to pay $115k ($69 up front) to (child recovery business) CARI to snatch the kids, escape via water (jetskis) to a boat and then on to Cyprus… (name withheld) needs to tell Sally today that IS have pulled out. It is [sic] be good if she could tell them that we would at least like the talk about the possibility of doing something.”

The leaked emails appear to benefit Rice who is set to launch legal action for unfair dismissal with reports that he has hired high-profile workplace lawyer John Laxon to defend him.

Rice was dismissed last week after an internal review revealed major flaws in the story approval process that led to its 60 Minutes’ crew being arrested and charged.

This afternoon, a separate story on the Guardian has emerged claiming to detail allegations raised against Rice in the internal review and how the authors, former A Current Affair EP David Hurley, founding 60 Minutes EP Gerald Stone and the company’s legal advisor Rachel Launders found that Rice made a series of “terrible misjudgments”.


Nine this evening denied deliberately leaking the details of the full internal review and declined to be drawn on the details of the wider internal review.

Nine CEO Hugh Marks said, in a statement: “The manner in which we produced Sally Faulkner’s story exposed our crew to serious risks, and exposed 60 Minutes and Nine to significant reputational damage. We got too close to the story and suffered damaging consequences.

“Amongst other elements of the execution of this story it was inappropriate, and at odds with our standard procedure, for a payment to be made directly by 60 Minutes to the recovery agency that had been independently contracted by Sally Faulkner. It was also inappropriate, with the risks involved for our crew, not to have consulted with Nine’s security advisers before the story was finalised.”

“As a result of the review, we are expanding and upgrading our processes related to story selection and approval, how we approve contracts and payments and the way we conduct risk assessments. We have an obligation to our staff, our shareholders and our viewers to operate in ways that enhance our reputation as a leading producer of news and current affairs,” Marks said.

“We also accept a broader obligation to get our judgement calls right regarding what stories we pursue, and how we pursue them. Implementation of the recommendations of the review will assist us in making the right choices in the future,” Marks said.

Stone; Rice's sacking was unfair.

Stone; Rice’s sacking was unfair.

Earlier this week, 60 Minutes apologised to viewers for its role in the story. It also carried an interview with former 60 Minutes EP Gerald Stone who labelled the sacking of Rice “unfair.”

Comment has been sought from Rice’s lawyer.


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