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Herald Sun v The OPP (2010) Campbell Reports

Courtesy of avlxyz at flickr

Courtesy of avlxyz at flickr - The Supreme Court of Victoria

By Caroline Tang

The Herald Sun strikes again – no, not against the Office of Police Integrity – this time, against the Office of Public Prosecutions and its director, Jeremy Rapke.

Last Sunday, journalist James Campbell’s cover story screamed, “REVEALED: HOW THE PROMOTION OF A YOUNG FEMALE LAWYER HAS ROCKED TOP PROSECUTOR JEREMY RAPKE’S OFFICE LAW CRISIS.”

Relying on three senior, unnamed OPP sources, Campbell implied 28-year-old associate Crown prosecutor Diana Karamicov was appointed to her highly-paid position in July because she was having an affair with Rapke.

Campbell also reported Rapke hadn’t spoken to Chief Crown Prosecutor Gavin Silbert since Karamicov’s appointment, and principal solicitor Stephen Payne had recently quit the OPP in protest against Karamicov’s promotion.

The damning report on the “turmoil” within the OPP prompted Rapke to hold an unprecedented press conference the same day to deny any “sexual” or “inappropriate” relationship with Karamicov.

Rapke even went on talkback radio the next day to further deny the scandalous allegations.

But the story has continued to create headlines all week, with “crisis talks” being held.

It’s questionable however whether Campbell should have relied on the word of three anonymous lawyers as the basis for his story, when he had no further proof.

Campbell’s sources may be telling the truth or they may have ulterior motives, and who knows if they would jump at the chance to back Campbell and the Herald Sun – in court – if Rapke sued for defamation?

Also, Campbell’s report claims to be “the culmination of a three-month investigation,” but it seems his efforts to obtain comment from Rapke and Karamicov were done as an afterthought.

Late on the Friday afternoon before publication last Sunday, the Herald Sun spoke with Rapke briefly, who had no comment.  The paper also left Rapke a voicemail message specifying the allegations of the “improper relationship,” which went unanswered.

And they were unable to contact Karamicov.

To be fair, Campbell should have tried to contact Rapke and Karamicov much earlier; clearly, he had been speaking to his three secret sources earlier than two days before publication.

And Karamicov was not the only “inexperienced” solicitor appointed to the position of associate Crown prosecutor.  Two others were appointed at the same time and their promotions also caused concern within the OPP, but Campbell didn’t say who they were – maybe because they don’t have such close ties to Rapke?

Of course, sex sells and to the media, what better than a sex scandal involving a top public servant?

But a desire to boost circulation shouldn’t be the main reason for reporting these kinds of allegations without further proof to back them up.

Posted under: Media ethics
Dated: Oct 15 2010

105 Comments

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