Royal phone hoax: Criminal charges mooted as UK police investigate prank decision

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The Australian radio station behind the hoax phone call could face criminal charges for airing the conversation, legal experts said yesterday.

Last week’s prank was widely condemned days after it aired,following the death of the nurse who answered the phone and helped two DJs – Mel Greig and Michael Christian – get confidential information about the former Kate Middleton’s health. But when it comes to a potential criminal case, the question is not about the death; rather it is whether a private conversation was broadcast without the permission of the participants.

Those found guilty of such a violation could face prison. However, it remains unclear who at radio station 2DayFM or its parent company, Southern Cross Austereo, made the decision to air the call. The DJs have said executives made the decision, but a former 2DayFM host who orchestrated many pranks for the station said DJs were always involved.

Southern Cross Austereo has said the station had tried five times to contact the hospital, but privacy law expert Barbara McDonald said that could prove to be an inadequate defence. The New South Wales state Surveillance Devices Act prohibits the broadcast of recorded private conversations without participants’ permission, with violations punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to A$55,000 [$58,000].

Australian authorities have said lthey have been in contact with their London counterparts and are ready to assist them in any UK investigation.