Directors and investors beware


It will be cold comfort to the people who lost fortunes in Lombard Finance that Sir Douglas Graham also lost a large amount – a couple of million dollars.

The sentence of fines and community service handed down to him and other directors won’t help those who lost money either.

But it is a warning to other directors of their responsibilities and to investors that there’s a correlation between risk and return, no matter who’s running the company.

Court of new beginnings reduces reoffending by 60%


Statistic of the day:

Mr Coster says 80% of daylight anti-social behaviour in the city is caused by just 30 people.

But the Special Circumstances Court, also known as the Court of New Beginnings, was established in 2010 its programme to rehabilitate and support homeless people caught in a cycle of low-level offending, has resulted in 60% reduction in reoffending.

That’s good for them and good for society.

Desperation or stupidity?


Is this desperation or stupidity?

A Queenstown mother has admitted making calls claiming to be a sexual health worker in a bid to damage the reputation of a teenage girl who was a rival to her daughter as both had applied to study at two Dunedin high schools. 

The woman has interim name suppression, which isn’t usually very effective in small towns where the grapevine is so efficient. But this is a case when I think suppression is justified, not for the defendent’s sake but that of her daughter.

People taking extreme steps to ensure their children get into a school didn’t used to be a problem in the provinces.

Increased zoning and concern over standards at some state schools could change that and influence property values. But hopefully it won’t prompt any more of the strange behaviour which has led to this court case.

Speaker refers Leigh case to Privileges Committee


Speaker Lockwood Smith has referred the Erin Leigh case to the Privileges Committee.

The Supreme court ruled that advice from officials to ministers was not covered by absolute privilege, Dr Smith said the issue raised serious matters which he would refer to the privileges committee for consideration.

The court ruling allowed Ms Leigh to sue for defamation. That doesn’t mean she was defamed but it leaves her free to take a case but unfortunately the cost of doing that has stopped her taking the matter any further.

I hope the Privileges Committee not only looks at the implications of the ruling but at the behaviour of the MPs and state servants which prompted the case.

A report on the court decision is here.

Kiwiblog has a Q&A from Ms Leigh.

Duncan Garner says she deserves an apology, and a payout to not only cover costs, but  to reflect damages.

Sex by judicial decree no joke


The story of a woman successfully suing her ex-husband because his libido was too low for her liking will probably be treated as a joke.

It’s not funny when you go beyond the headline:

But the strains of work and illness prevented Jean-Louis from fulfilling his matrimonial duties, his advocate pleaded.

Announcing her decision the judge quoted the French civil and penal code, which requires both parties in a marriage to respect ‘lifelong community’ requiring them by law to have sexual relations.

Sex by judicial decree isn’t funny.

It probably would be even less likely to be regarded as amusing  if it was the man who complained about the woman but it’s no more a joke because it was the husband’s low libido which prompted the case rather than the wife’s.

Non-consensual sex is abuse regardless of who’s demanding and who’s reluctant.

A difference in libido would cause problems in a relationship but they would be best sorted out by counselling rather than a court.

Famous for being not well known


When someone whispered, via email, who the celebrity seeking name suppression after his arrest for disorderly behaviour was I recognised the name but couldn’t place it.

I’m in good company. The judge who heard an application for continued suppression said he didn’t know who the bloke was either.

Had the accused fronted up and apologised it would all have blown over by now.

Instead of which he’s become famous for not being well known, ensured his case gets on-gong going publicity and given further impetus to the need for changes to the law on name suppression.

Where’s Whaleoil?


A TV3 news story says Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater is mocking another suppresion order.

Clicking on both Whaleoil and Gotcha led to an error message.

Is that just a conincidence?

Victim impact report censored


Gil Elliot, the father of Sophie who was murdered by Clayton Weatherston, wants changes to the law to allow greater freedom of expression for people giving victim impact statements.

The statement he delivered to the court before Clayotn Weatherston was sentenced was heavily censored and he is justifiably angry about that.

There is something wrong with a justice system which allows an accused person to besmirch his victim’s reputation but censors her father’s victim impact statement.

Courting trouble


Bloggers beware: the Crown Law Office is reviewing internet publication after recent cases raised questions over contempt of court and suppression order breaches.

It’s nearly 30 years since I studied media law at journalism school. We weren’t using computers and had never heard of the internet so what we learned applied to print and broadcast media.

But I’ve always blogged on the theory that the laws which applied then still apply now whether they’re published in old media or new.

Comment which might influence a case before it’s concluded, publishing information that’s been suppressed or indentifying – explicitly or not – someone who has name suppression are all courting trouble.

Contempt of court has always been a serious charge and I don’t think the medium in which the offending comments were published would make a difference.

Stadium gets tick, opponents get bill


The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal against the Dunedin City Council’s funding of the Forsyth Barr Stadium. Stop the Stadium which brought the action will have to pay up to $17,000 for costs.

That’s how it should be.

Ratepayers will have spent a lot more on the council’s defence of the action and if the opponents didn’t pay court costs the taxpayer would have to.

Obviously obvious #2


A juror wrote to a judge and the  general manager of  high courts calling for better screening of English comprehenion in potential jurors after serving on a jury, most members of which didn’t speak English as a first language.

Some people speak and understand English better as a second language than others do as a first so not being a native English speaker should not rule people out of jury duty altogether.

But whether English is your first language or not, a good grasp of the language and listening comprehension skills ought to be a pre-requisite for jurors.

Blogs subject to same legal restraints as other media


Media law was an important part of Canterbury University’s  journalism course and we were fortunate to have one of New Zealand’s top specialists, Professor John Burrows, lecturing us.

The dangers of defamation, contempt of court and prejudicing a trial were repeated many times, with precautionary tales of journalists who had crossed the line to reinforce the seriousness of breaching the law. 

Those lessons have helped me resist any temptation I might have had to write posts on trials while they are under way.

Blogging may be a much more informal method of communicationt than other media, but it is subject to similar legal constraints.

The ODT reports on the issue and quotes Otago University law professor, Mark Henaghan:

“If it [blogging] is outside the law it would be ridiculous.”It would be a good idea if the solicitor-general brought contempt proceedings, as it would be a test case, he said.

“We’ve pussyfooted around blogging too much – it is part of communication.”Any interference with court proceedings was contempt of court.

Whether comments were made in blogs or yelling it out in court, it was still contempt.

“It’s a serious matter,” Prof Henaghan said.

Bloggers don’t have the safety net of sub editors to save us from ourselves and it’s not just what we post but what people may say in comments which could fall foul of the law.

For these reasons I’ll stick with my policy of playing safe.  I’m rarely tempted to post on criminal matters but if I am I’ll be waiting until after the case has been concluded.

Publication part of punishment


Publication of some offenders’ photos could be a more powerful deterrent than a sentence according to Distirct Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll.

He was ruling on an application by the ODT to publish a photo of a man who admitted downloading images showing sexual exploitation of children.

Granting the application, Judge O’Driscoll said the basic principle of an open court meant the media, which had an obligation to be fair and balanced, was “the eyes and ears of the public” and always entitled to be in court.

… Judge O’Driscoll said the publication of the defendant’s name and photograph could be a powerful deterrent to both those already involved in such offending and those considering it.

The defendent’s counsel opposed the application for lifting name suppression noting the impact on the defendent’s wife and elderly mother. But the judge said it was a sad consequence of offending that there were always innocent family members who suffered.

And of course the innocent children who are exploited by pornographers.

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