Seven may seeks damage from AFP as court quashes Schapelle search warrants

seven-raid1Seven is considering seeking damages from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) following raids on its offices searching for evidence of payments to convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby for an interview which never happened.

The raids followed rumours Seven agreed to pay Corby over $1m for exclusive interview rights following her release from prison in Bali in January, as such an agreement would have breached laws preventing criminals from profiting from their crime.

However Seven claims the AFP had made material errors in the language of its search warrants by naming Seven staff and solicitors as “suspects” of an investigation.

Today Federal Court judge Jayne Jagot quashed the orders and ruled errors in the search warrants were not insignificant, as the AFP had argued.

The AFP has said it is considering whether to appeal.

Seven welcomed the decision in a statement that read: “The court found that errors contained in the warrants and orders, which referred to Seven personnel and solicitors as ‘suspects’ of an investigation and as being reasonably suspected of having committed criminal offences, could not be brushed aside as trivial or insignificant as the AFP had submitted.

“Instead, the errors were material and serious and affected the decision of the Magistrate to issue the warrants. Seven will seek payment of its legal costs from the AFP and is considering other options available to us to redress the costs of the AFP’s failed investigation.”

The AFP responded by saying it will now consider its options including a possible appeal.

A spokesperson for the AFP said: “The AFP acknowledges Justice Jagot’s decision in the matter relating to search warrants executed at Seven West Media properties in February 2014. The AFP will now consider its future options, including a possible appeal, following a full review of today’s judgement. It is not appropriate to comment further in relation to this matter.”

Tim Worner, CEO of Seven West Media, said the decision represents a victory for free speech and released a statement saying the investigation had been a painful distraction for the network and had directly affected some of its staff members. He said:

Today’s decision represents a victory for free speech given that our hard working and award winning news and public affairs team and people at The West Australian and Pacific Magazines were only doing their job in reporting on a matter of wide public interest.

“We abhor the notion that it is apparently fine to seize journalists’ correspondence, notes or contact lists.

Today’s decision in the Federal Court underlines our commitment to the reporting and telling of stories that matter.

I would like to acknowledge Bruce McWilliam and his legal team at Seven West Media, and also Justine Munsie at our legal firm Addisons, for their work, commitment and pursuit on this.

More personally, I am glad any implied mark against Seven has been removed, given at all times we were co-operating with the AFP in providing material. This has now been accepted.

Additionally, a number of staff members were directly affected by what occurred, and we as a company are sorry they were upset in this unreasonable way. We thank them also for their ongoing commitment to Seven.

We are all pleased by the result, although unfortunately it has been a very painful distraction.”

Megan Reynolds


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