A judge in the Victorian Supreme Court will today decide whether the Nine Network’s forthcoming Underbelly series could prejudice an upcoming trial.
It immediately leaves the screening of the series in Victoria hanging in the balance.
In the mid 1990′s, the ABC’s drama about police corruption, Blue Murder, was unable to be screened for 6 years in NSW while legal cases were pending.
The Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions Jeremy Rapke, QC, yesterday told The Age he could not comment on whether he might seek an injunction to stop all or part of the series.
His comments came after it was revealed that an urgent Supreme Court hearing sparked by Nine’s forthcoming dramatisation of Melbourne’s gangland killings has been listed today to discuss its possible ramifications on an impending murder trial.
A spokesman for Mr Rapke said he had not “had an opportunity to preview the program, and as such is not yet in a position to comment as to whether he would consider seeking an injunction in relation to any or all of the program”.
The statement continued: “This position may alter after the director (DPP) has previewed the program. He hopes to preview some of the program shortly.”
A senior Crown prosecutor and a lawyer for Evangelos Goussis — charged with the murder of Lewis Moran — will appear today before Justice Betty King. Channel Nine has been invited to attend.
The prosecution and defence are concerned that anything about Moran’s killing in the Brunswick Club in 2004, if depicted in Underbelly, may prejudice Goussis’ trial, listed to start on March 31.
If Underbelly portrays any person who is currently facing the Victorian courts on criminal charges in a poor light, it might lead to that individual seeking a stay, or delay, in their trial.
There is speculation Nine has altered the names of some of the characters, but the network refused to confirm this.
Nine is on record as saying, “Both Nine and Screentime are conscious of the legal issues and obligations,” she said, “and have been working together since the program’s inception to ensure all such issues are addressed, with full cooperation and support.”
A delay for Nine in Victoria would be a disaster. It is pinning its hopes on the series to spearhead a ratings revival. Any legal complications in the state of Victoria would not affect interstate screenings.
Meanwhile, Judy Moran had sought to meet Caroline Gillmer as filming for the series drew to an end but the TV show’s producers ruled it out. So Ms. Moran watched her perform in the musical, “Menopause.”
“She sent me 35 beautiful roses at the stage door and a beautiful card,” Gillmer said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be the quintessential Judy Moran in terms of the script, in terms of what’s presented – that’s what the public will have to bear in mind with all the characters.
“We are hired to play that script. That’s what my job is – to perform that script that has approval from the legal department.”