Ben Fordham, a regular reporter on Nine's A Current Affair, has been found guilty of breaching the Listening Devices Act in the process of filming a secret report for an edition of the program filmed in May 2008.
Fordham was found guilty on one count of utilising illegal techniques when producing a sting report for A Current Affair. Fordham falsely presented himself as a hitman to former local mayor James Robert Markham, who was being investigated by the program in relation to an alleged plan to cause harm to a male escort.
An ACA producer was also found guilty on four separate charges, while the Nine Network escaped unscathed.
The handing down of the verdict did not occur smoothly, however, as the Supreme Court judge Justice Elizabeth Fullerton referred to the reporter Ben Fordham as "disrespectful" for failing to be present in court for the announcement of the verdict. Fordham at the time had remained in Canberra to cover the progress of the election.
"Why should I proceed to find an offence proved against a defendant in criminal proceedings in his absence? This is a serious matter ... frankly his attitude is disrespectful," stated Justice Fullerton in Fordham's absence.
Ben Fordham said in response: "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."
Nine stated that "when we were informed yesterday that the judgement would be handed down today, Ben was advised by his lawyers that his attendance at court today was not required ... he will, of course, be there for sentencing on August 19."
It would seem that a mere miscommunication resulted in the absence from court -- whether this has any impact upon the sentence will be seen on August 19. The sentence is expected to be of a non-custodial nature.
Regardless, there will certainly be some red faces in Fordham's legal team today.