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27 October, 2009  
Goings On ...

Reptile of the press upsets court with spiky email to counsel assisting … When a nice jacket saves the day

imageJournalist Greg Bearup from Fairfax’s Good Weekend found himself in strife after he sent a snippy email to Sydney barrister Ron Hoenig (pic).

Ron is counsel assisting the coronial inquiry into the death of teenage prostitute Arron Light, who disappeared and was murdered in 1996.

He’s also been the Labor Mayor of Botany for an incredible 28-years.

The coronial inquiry before magistrate Jacqueline Milledge has been on and off for yonks.

Bearup is covering the inquiry for a possible feature article. At some stage Hoenig brusquely gave the reporter the bums-rush when he requested some assistance for his story.

Greg wasn’t going to take that lying down and he sent Hoenig an email saying:

“Dear Mr Hoenig,

I have been a journalist for more than 20 years and during that time I have spent days in court watching lawyers such as yourself. I have developed a theory that the lawyers who are the least helpful and who say things like ‘it is beneath me to talk to the press’, or words to that effect, are often the least nimble and able on their feet. I have been at the Glebe Coroners Court this week for the Arron Light matter – thank you for confirming my theory.

Greg Bearup

Needless to say Hoenig was livid at this impertinence and forwarded the email to a number of people, including Geesche Jacobsen, The Sydney Morning Herald’s chief court reporter.

Brett Thomson, the Crown’s instructing solicitor, sent Bearup a missive saying he was the person to approach for help and that barristers, particularly prosecutors, are “subject to certain professional restraints when it comes to media contact”.

imageHe later rang rang the cheeky scribe and told him to report to the court on Thursday (Oct 22) at 2pm.

Bearup (pic) was accompanied by Fairfax company secretary and lawyer Gail Hambly and celebrity journalist David Marr, who lent the wretch a jacket for the occasion, a gesture that proved decisive.

Milledge made it clear that she had received the email in her chambers and was under the mistaken impression that the reptile had sent it, which was why it was potentially contemptuous.

Bearup said he had not sent it to the magistrate, it was entirely a matter between him and the barrister.

In the opening-up of exciting new legal territory Milledge declared that, “a letter to Mr Hoenig is a letter to the court”.

imageThe coroner said she had the upmost faith in Hoenig’s ability, that she had chosen him for the job, that they had decided not to assist the press and that the email was rude.

Bearup was overcome with emotion and told the court he regretted sending the beastly epistle. Furthermore, he apologised to Hoenig.

Milledge (snap) didn’t take it further. She commented that the accused (?) was “very smart in a suit”.

She couldn’t see the jeans down below.