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Australian court backs finding that radio royal prank call broke law

Australia’s High Court on Wednesday backed the broadcasting watchdog’s finding that an Australian radio station broke the law with a prank call to a British hospital taking care of the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge, paving the way for penalties.

Two presenters at Sydney’s 2Day FM called the London hospital in December 2012, pretending to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.

They were put through to a nurse who disclosed details of Charles’ daughter-in-law’s condition during treatment for severe morning sickness in the early stages of pregnancy, making headlines around the world.

The nurse who answered and transferred the call committed suicide three days later.

On Wednesday, the High Court in Canberra ruled in favour of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), overturning a ruling by the lower Federal Court.

The earlier ruling said the watchdog did not have the power to find 2Day FM broke the law because it did not have authority in criminal matters.

The High Court said ACMA did have the power to determine the station had committed a criminal offence, as a preliminary to taking enforcement action under the Broadcasting Services Act.

ACMA did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

In its ruling, the High Court said the station did not obtain the consent of the hospital’s staff to air the recording of the call.

The two presenters, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, both apologised for their actions in the wake of the scandal and said they were devastated by the death of Indian-born nurse Jacintha Saldanha, 46. Greig attended the inquest into Saldanha’s death at London’s High Court.

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