Matthew Blomfield, the defamation plaintiff against Cameron Slater who has been exciting the journalistic and blogging communities this week asked to make a statement to clear up some issues that have arisen in the blog space.
There was a lot of stupidity and outright bullshit (like allegations that Mr Blomfield was an undischarged bankrupt) in the comments in an earlier post that put this site at a legal risk (including comments from Cameron Slater). So I agreed to do it only if the post was fully moderated. Rational discussion without unsupported assertions of fact will be let through where they do not impede the case currently in front of the courts.
Mr Blomfield’s statement is as follows..
In 2010 I was adjudged bankrupt on personal guarantees of $3.5 million. I don’t have a lot of excuses. I had too many interrelated companies. We made some poor business decisions. We simply ran out of cash and the whole house of cards crumbled taking me with it. Very humbling, very embarrassing. I have since been discharged from bankruptcy without objection and am slowly rebuilding my commercial life in a far more considered manner.
In the midst of all of my troubles, there was in 2010, a burglary at the office I shared with a business associate. I believed my hard drive was taken, by who I don’t know. The statement I gave to the police says
What was originally taken and what ended up in the storage container [a shipping container owned by my associate] I will never know. I can categorically say that a whole lot of boxes with my files and my stuff went missing and my mountain bike and other stuff went missing when the burglary happened.
A number of reasons have been offered up for why Slater has the drive. I’m not sure what is true, but the discovery I seek will answer that question. The fact remains, it was stolen, by friend or foe, and the information was accessed illegally. The law is very clear on that (storage and stored data are defined as a computer system). It doesn’t matter how Slater got it. My associate later left the company I was working for in the face of a very significant dispute with the other main shareholders, of whom I was not one. I certainly believed that I had been let down by him and said so. It was the end of a very close friendship as well.
I adjusted to my new circumstances in a rented small home that my father in-law purchased out west and concentrated on my wife and family whom I love dearly. I had never been a public figure and by May 2012, I was all but invisible. I had barely heard of the Whaleoil Blog, did not read it, and certainly had had no dealings with Mr Slater whatsoever.
It was therefore a considerable shock to me to be directed to his blog site and to see the contents of my hard dive published therein. If Mr Slater had stuck to saying what he has in the last few days (with some exceptions), namely that I was a (now former) bankrupt and banned company director (I am now allowed to act as a director of the company I work for BTW) who took $3.5 m of other people’s (all institutions, no individuals) money with him when I went down, I could hardly complain.
Instead, he wrote a series of articles and published attendant comments which accused me of a series of crimes and then made disgusting and denigrating claims against my wife. As recently as Thursday this week she received anonymous text messages stating “Headhunters are waiting”. While the stories were running it was commonplace for her to receive updates of what atrocities were in store for her (all the detail is before the court and Slater knows it). His supporters then amused themselves with online hate speech. He mocked my attempts to reason with him. That is when I decided to sue him. I had no money and legal aid would hardly be appropriate even if it were available so I did it myself. He responded with a high profile law firm. Was I angry? He wasn’t just attacking me!
After a slow start, I have been improving as a lay litigant. The offending material has all but been removed from the internet. I have also been helped by the fact that, at Mr Slater’s behest, every investigative body in the land has had a look at the information on the hard drive he acquired, and nothing has come of it. I even went through a Judicial Review with Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment to get my hard drive back after an intensive investigation by the Official Assignee, provoked by Mr Slater, of all of the files on it. The defamation case moves slowly towards trial and Mr Slater claims truth and honest opinion as defences.
In Slater’s attempts to prove wrongdoing after the fact, to date, the Official Assignee has recorded $111,953.02 (taxpayer funds) for cost and disbursements in administering my estate. That is just one of many of the government offices that received complaints during Slater’s tirade. And to the best of my knowledge they haven’t had any of my creditors contact them (only Slater and his cohorts’).
For the past year I have been trying to get discovery from Mr Slater. I served a notice and he ignored it. I obtained a Court Order in September 2013 and he ignored that. In November 2013, I went back to Court and asked that he be jailed in contempt. He then said he will apply to the High Court to appeal the September 2013 Order and the District Court has given him time to do so. The part he wants to appeal is where the learned Judge said, not only must he provide discovery, he must provide all discovery including emails from my above-mentioned former associate and his cohorts.
A lot happened on that day. Judge Blackie looked into discovery in detail, reviewed vast amounts of evidence, and then reserved his decision. It was an interlocutory hearing, one of many you have on the way to the main event. What is clear is that his honour and the Court know a lot more about what went on than is currently out there. All will be revelled in good time.
This is not about bloggers – it’s about Slater. I’m all for freedom of speech. Like most of us, I just think public statement s should be true – pretty simple in my mind.
I told the Court that I believe Mr Slater published this material at the behest of a third party and that, directly or indirectly, he received a benefit from doing so. If he is just a crank being a crank, that is one thing, but if he is a gun for hire masquerading as a commentator, that is a different ball game. The damages will increase substantially.
In an attempt to avoid having to hand over this information, Mr Slater claimed that he is a journalist. The Judge, without any real prompting from me, decided that he is not. I agree. Journalism is a profession. It has standards and he has none.
Whilst I well understand the commentators who say that, because his blog apes a news medium, he should be given his own tea set, the High Court can assess the application of the privilege afforded by the Evidence Act in this case.
The protection of journalists’ sources is a “public interest” privilege. It is hard to argue for a public interest privilege in the absence of any public interest. There was no public interest in my hard drive. If I am right about who gave it to him, Mr Slater has, for whatever reason, allowed himself to be a megaphone for one source individual who wishes to inflict considerable damage on another individual and his family from behind a cloak of anonymity. In this instance, there is no public interest in allowing that source to remain in hiding.
I believe Mr Slater himself has a great deal to hide with respect to my hard drive. That is why, as Martyn Bradbury so pertinently observed, we have the wolf crying boy. A person who has previously eschewed the mainstream media and made so much of his swashbuckling outsider status now begs the protection afforded to the establishment. Rather than point to any aspect of the public interest that arises in this case, Mr Slater hopes that he can acquire the mantle of a journalist and get blanket protection. He points to his recent achievements to qualify.
Mr Slater highlights the substantial increase in page views arising from the swell of readers driven by a prurient desire to absorb the masturbatory and ejaculatory details of the Auckland Mayor and his mistress (understanding that this is irrelevant to my matter before the court as it’s almost two years after the fact). Self censorship has never been an effective tool and that’s why we have others to do it for us. Acting in a totally unregulated environment, Mr Slater committed a gross breach of privacy of the sort that garnered Max Moseley significant damages. Whatever the newsworthiness of the affair itself, the Mayor could have expected that sort of sheet sniffing perversion would never see the light of day.
Mr Slater also exhibits delusions of grandeur by touting his webpage as a groundbreaking news organisation. That is patently incorrect. He did not “break” the Len Brown story. Luigi Wewege used him to disseminate it. Luigi could have taken the story the New Zealand Herald which I understand has confirmed that it would have at least printed the fact of the affair. He chose Mr Slater. Why? Because Mr Slater and Stephen Cook will go lower than anyone else. Why? Well from their own words: Cook aspires to that kind of material. Mr Slater? He just likes to see things burn.
When Mr Slater demonstrably acts in the public interest, then that is when he should be afforded the public interest privilege that he desires.
Matthew John Blomfield