Underbelly: articles

Nine Network ordered to pay legal costs on Underbelly

CHANNEL Nine has been ordered to pay the costs of a courtroom stoush with Victoria's top prosecutor over gangland series Underbelly.

The network is facing a potentially expensive legal bill after already losing million of dollars of advertising revenue and wasted marketing when the 13-part crime drama was banned from Victorian screens by a Supreme Court judge.

Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, and justices Frank Vincent and Murray Kelham in the Court of Appeal today ordered Nine pay the undisclosed costs of the appeal for the taxpayer funded Office of Public Prosecutions.

The network's legal team clashed with Victoria's top prosecutor, Director of Public Prosecutions Jeremy Rapke, QC, during an urgent hearing at the Court of Appeal in March.

During the hearing, Nine's barrister argued the network was hurt every time a pirated copy of the $13 million program was downloaded.

But the much-hyped series on Melbourne bloody gangland feud stayed banned in Victoria - pending an underworld murder trial - after three judges dismissed the appeal.

Chief Justice Warren and justices Vincent and Kellam said Nine's lawyers had acknowledged the series would likely be downloaded from the internet and available worldwide.

But they said they were confident jurors who had seen any of the series would follow the trial judge's directions.

The ban expired two weeks ago with the conviction of hitman Evangelos Goussis for the murder of crime patriarch Lewis Moran, paving the way for Nine to begin screening episodes.

Supreme Court Justice Betty King made the original suppression order on the series in February , ruling a fair trial was more important than Nine's profits, after the OPP raised concerns.

The order banning the publication, broadcasting or exhibition of the series until the trial was over, was appealed against, but that appeal was dismissed.

“As this is a civil matter, costs should follow the event,'' the judges ruled.

“There is no sound reason to depart from the usual approach.''

The ban on screening the series expired when a jury found Geelong man Evangelos Goussis guilty of murdering underworld figure Lewis Moran in Melbourne in March 2004.

However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Jeremy Rapke QC, warned against publication of any part of the series in Victoria while other criminal trials linked to the underworld were pending.

One such case is that of Tony Mokbel, who features prominently and often in Underbelly.

Mokbel was extradited from Greece to Australia on May 17 and faces two murder charges over the deaths of Moran and another underworld figure Michael Marshall.

He is due to appear in court later this month.

The 13-part Underbelly series, which premiered in most of Australia on February 13, portrays the underworld wars which raged in Melbourne from 1995 to 2004 and left 27 people dead.

By Emily Power
June 11, 2008
Herald Sun