Australia’s High Court has upheld a ruling that radio station 2Day FM broke the law by airing a hoax call to a hospital which was treating Kate Middleton for morning sickness.
DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian made international headlines in 2012 when nurse Jacintha Saldana who fell for their prank later killed herself.
On March 4, the High Court overturned a previous decision which cleared 2Day FM.
The station could now be fined or see its license suspended or revoked.
2Day FM said Wednesday’s decision “means that there is a serious defect in Australian broadcasting law”.
The High Court ruling upheld an earlier finding by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) that the station broke the law by not obtaining consent to air the call from either of the hospital staff featured.
Mel Greig and Michael Christian called King Edward VII’s Hospital in London on December 2012 pretending to be the Queen and Prince Phillip.
Nurse Jacintha Saldana, 46, answered the call and transferred it to a colleague, who gave details of Kate Middleton’s condition. Following widespread media coverage Jacintha Saldanha was found hanged three days later.
ACMA had ruled in November 2013, nearly a year after the prank took place, that the radio station had broken the law by broadcasting the call.
The station successfully sued the ACMA in the Federal Court, arguing that the media watchdog did not have the authority to decide whether a criminal offence had been committed and overturned its decision.
Wednesday’s High Court ruling reverses that Federal Court decision, finding that the ACMA does have that power. The authority can now decide whether to issue a penalty to the station of a fine or suspension of license.
In February 2013, the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service said there was no evidence to support a charge of manslaughter against Mel Greig and Michael Christian.
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Mel Greig, the Australian radio DJ who took part in the royal hoax call after which nurse Jacintha Saldanha killed herself, has told of her own fears after receiving death threats and bullets in the post.
In a recent interview with BBC Two’s Newsnight, Mel Greig said: “I was in lockdown for months. There were bullets with our name on it sent to police stations.”
She also revealed that that at one point someone had rung her mother and said “eye for an eye, you deserve to die”.
Nurse Jacintha Saldanha died in 2012, after the hoax call to a London hospital treating the pregnant Kate Middleton.
Mel Greig and colleague Michael Christian made their prank call to King Edward VII’s Hospital in December 2012.
Mel Greig took part in the royal hoax call after which nurse Jacintha Saldanha killed herself
They pretended to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles asking about Kate Middleton’s treatment for severe morning sickness.
Jacintha Saldanha, 46, answered the call and transferred it to a colleague, who gave details of the duchess’s condition.
The nurse was found hanged three days later.
In her first UK broadcast interview, Mel Greig said she will always feel at fault “to an extent” about her death.
“I was mentioned in Jacintha’s suicide note – not the Australian DJ, my name,” she said.
“She thought of me before she took her own life. How can you not feel guilt and blame? And I always will, but I have learnt to deal with it now.”
Mel Greig revealed how she had been the victim of death threats since the incident.
“I don’t want to sit here and go <<poor me, it was terrible>>,” she said.
“[The Saldanha family] have lost a wife and a mother, but the trolling and the death threats were disgusting.”
Mel Greig said as well as the bullets being sent in the post, she had been stalked and harassed for 18 months.
She said the worst point was when someone rang her mother and threatened her with revenge.
Mel Greig and Michael Christian were working for Sydney’s 2Day FM when they made the hospital call.
She quit at the end of last year.
Mel Greig said she would urge anyone in the radio industry thinking about making a prank call to seriously consider the potential consequences.
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