When The Age hackers were first accused of hacking offences, they denied it. Then they claimed it was in the ‘public interest’ and would be fighting it all the way when they were charged by prosecutors. Now, as their day of justice draws closer, the hackers now seem ready to confess their alleged crimes in a desperate bid to avoid jail.
The three accused Age hackers, who allegedly illegally penetrated an ALP voter database with a stolen password given to them by Greensparty honcho Fraser Brindley, are reported as being ready to confess their alleged criminal behaviour in a plea bargain.
The scandal came to light as The Age thundered on loudly about the ethical and criminal failings of UK journalists engaged in hacking, usually of telephone voicemail. Many dozens of British journalists have been charged with criminal offences relating to hacking although it’s understood The Age Three are the first in Australia.
The Melbourne Magistrates Court heard yesterday that criminal defendants, the 57-year-old Royce Millar, Nick McKenzie and Ben Schneiders were all looking to plead guilty to avoid a lengthy trial and possible imprisonment. A criminal conviction could prevent the high-flyers from freely entering many foreign jurisdictions, for environmental conferences or on assignment.
The Age’s hackers face criminal penalties of up to two years imprisonment…
Some around the Age had heard that Millar was actually looking forward to a stretch in jail because he’d probably able to get a few stories on prison corruption out of the place. That’s a genuine commitment to journalism, right there. But in the end, the prospect of being separated from his Google-machine, his mobile phone and digital recorder appear to have got to much for him.
Millar and Schneiders attended the court proceedings although Nick McKenzie is believed to be overseas, possibly on assignment in Mexico, some sources suggested today. Brindley didn’t attend either but Environmental Protection Authority bureaucrat had a lawyer there.
The Age hacker’s desperate attempt at a plea bargain sits rather at odds with their insistence they were acting within the law, although we’ll reserve commentary on that til their confession occur.
The Magistrates Court criminal justice diversion programme that The Age hackers seek to be access would require the Magistrate to “assesses the suitability of the accused and a plan is developed. The plan may require the accused to:
■ apologise to the victim in a letter or in person (creating an exciting new fund-raising auction opportunity for the Victorian branch of Labor)
■ compensate the victim (hard to compensate the victims of privacy breaches without a substantial cash settlement as in England)
■ attend for counselling and/or treatment (clearly a good idea)
■ perform voluntary work (some ALP letter-boxing or how-to-vote distributing could be in order)
■ donate money to a charitable organisation, local community project or the like (the ALP federal campaign is reportedly running a bit short)
■ attend a defensive driving course and/or Road Trauma Awareness Seminar (not necessary in this case because of the Power of Cabcharge – with The Age journalists even in this harsh climate using the Power of Cabcharge to transport themselves everywhere, even down to their local watering hole or organic supermarket)
any other condition the Magistrate or Judicial Registrar deems appropriate (placing the rogues in stocks or giving them a public flogging sadly no longer available in the Victorian colony).
It is as yet unclear whether the prosecution will agree with The Age’s hackers attempt to escape imprisonment by entering into the criminal diversion programme. Some of them may be pleased to know:
The existence of prior convictions does not disqualify an accused from the program but the court will take this into account in deciding whether the Diversion Program is appropriate…
The case will resume in August.