The Sydney judge in control of proceedings at A Current Affair reporter Ben Fordham’s court date has labelled him disrespectful for not being present when she convicted him of one of four charges against him.
Fordham’s lawyers excused him from the hearing saying he was in Canberra “for work purposes” and meant no disrespect in not attending.
“I expected him to be present when criminal proceedings launched in this court against him were being determined,” Justice Elizabeth Fullerton said to the NSW Supreme Court.
“Frankly his attitude is disrespectful.”
Fordham and his ACA producer Andrew Byrne were summoned to the NSW Court in relation to breaches of the Listening Devices Act for a 2008 story.
The matter was in relation to an ACA report which secretly recorded conversations with former Waverley mayor James Robert Markham who was accused of trying to coerce someone into hurting a male escort.
Fordham posed as a hitman and recorded conversations with Markham which were later aired on ACA.
Yesterday Justice Fullerton asked where Fordham was during the court session and was advised he was not present. She convicted him in his absence of one breach of the Act and Byrne of four breaches.
Sentencing submissions have been adjourned to August 19.
Nine has released the following statements:
A Nine spokesman said “When we were informed yesterday that the judgment would be handed down today, Ben was advised by his lawyers that his attendance at court today was not required, on the understanding that sentencing would be at a later date. He was there every minute of every day throughout the entire trial, and would have been there again today had the advice been different. Ben is in Canberra covering the election campaign, and was represented in court today by his lawyers and by the Executive Producer of A Current Affair. He will of course be there for sentencing on August 19″.
Ben Fordham said “I have the utmost respect for Justice Fullerton and the legal process. I’m absolutely mortified about today’s confusion, and would have been there had I been advised that my attendance was required. In fact, I was told the opposite”.