In one of our tutorials, we were given an exercise which involved “striking” through any material within a scenario that could be legally unsafe to publish. The scenario was about a robbery and the attack of a young shop assistant at a pharmacy in Box Hill, with information beginning from the time when police found out about the incident to a trial for the perpetrator. In considering contempt of court, sub judice and defamation as possible legal outcomes, I managed to write an article that I believed to be safe, yet still interesting.
200 Word Hard News Story:
A 20-year-old man from Ascot Vale has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and robbery at a Box Hill Shopping Centre pharmacy in August.
The accused, Frank Singh, claimed during his defence that he had never been within “20 kilometres of the chemist”, so he could not be their suspect.
The incident, which involved an attack on a young shop assistant, has been a reminder of the dangers that young people encounter by working at night alone.
Box Hill CIB’s Detective Sergeant, Ron Wells, said Priceline Pharmacy owner and father of the victim, Horace Marsden, had been “stupid in leaving a slight 19-year-old to lock up on her own”.
“Shop assistants should take extra care when closing late at night”, said Sgt Wells.
Maria Marsden was closing the store at 9pm, when a man walked in, pushed her to the ground and beat her with a cricket bat before running off with $5000.
Ms Marsden underwent emergency surgery at Box Hill Hospital that night.
Police urge the public to contact Crime Stoppers if they have any more information on the incident.
I crossed out a lot of the information that I deemed legally unsafe, as it was speculative in regards to the accused, Frank Singh, being a drug addict and part of a gang. As this information was not confirmed, I decided against using any of it in case it was defamatory. For this reason, I decided to the slightly tweak the angle story, by leading with the most important information – Singh’s not guilty plea, but then going on to focus on the shop owner, Horace Marsden, and the victim, his daughter, Maria Marsden. My angle was, therefore, the ethical considerations of young assistants closing stores alone at night and the possible implications of this. I avoided giving too much information about the accused, as the trial was ongoing, he was pleading not guilty, and he had not been sentenced yet, so I gave minimum facts of the case so as not to be sub judice or in contempt of court in allowing for a fair trial.
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