|11 Jule 2003 - JERRY McBrien, who the nation's finest legal minds say was ripped off on Monday night's episode of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, has been invited back to the Channel 9 quiz.|
The invitation followed yesterday's report in The Australian that news of Mr McBrien's plight had reached Australia's Chief Justice, Murray Gleeson.
With $32,000 already in his pocket and playing for $64,000, Mr McBrien said five justices sat on the full bench of the High Court.
The correct answer, host Eddie McGuire told him, was seven.
Mr McBrien has accepted Channel 9's invitation and will resume with a fresh $64,000 question next Monday. The phone-a-friend lifeline he used on the High Court question will be reinstated.
While it is correct that seven judges sit on the High Court, the term full court is defined under the Judiciary Act (1903) as a hearing comprising "two or more justices".
Lawyers say the terms full court and full bench are considered to be one and the same. It is understood the Chief Justice believed Channel 9 was in error.
The network initially stood by its decision. But the program's producers contacted the court yesterday and were told Mr McBrien's answer was technically correct.
Channel 9's executive producer of network events, Peter Wynne, argued the program was in the right.
"Our research, on which the question was based, still implies the answer to be seven justices," Mr Wynne said yesterday. "However, within the legal fraternity, it appears the question could be considered ambiguous as, among the options given, the answer of five could also apply. This is a unique situation.
"In fairness to Jerry ... and in the spirit of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, we are happy for him to return." Contacted by The Australian yesterday, before Channel 9 announced its backflip, Mr McBrien said he did not want to talk to the media and refused to say whether the network had invited him back.
"You'd better asked Nine that," he said. "I don't really want to pursue a discussion in the media."
By Benjamin Haslem
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