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Human Rights decision is quite pointed

Written By: - Date published: 8:54 am, March 13th, 2019 - 13 comments
Categories: blogs, Media - Tags: , , , , ,

A decision released yesterday by the Human Rights Review Tribunal that went against Cameron Slater is very clear. The gratuitous publication of personal details simply isn’t newsworthy in any news medium. There has to actually be something newsworthy to get the cover of the temporary exemption in the Privacy Act granted to news mediums. 

This case has effectively made a decision on the bounds on protections that news mediums and blogs can expect from the Privacy Act. The only problem is that getting that decision 4-5 years late isn’t exactly a timely deterrent – which I will discuss later when I get time. 

This relates to a complaint against Cameron Slater for publishing on the Whaleoil blog; the personal information, details and photos of Matthew Blomfield in a series of attack posts in 2012 (and later). These were largely sourced from a hard drive that appears to have been stolen from Blomfield. The series of posts were full of allegations against Blomfield – none of which appear to have been substantiated in any of the subsequent legal actions.

The Human Rights Review Tribunal added a further $70,000 to Cameron Slater’s burden in damages awarded to Matthew Blomfield. Of course Cameron Slater and the company that operates the Whaleoil site also has costs related to a series of defamation actions against him and the future awards of damages from those.

At issue in these proceedings is an allegation by the Director of Human Rights Proceedings (Director) that between 1 May 2012 and 7 October 2012 Mr Slater published on that website and on three others at least 46 documents containing personal information about Mr Matthew Blomfield, a business consultant who lives in Auckland. The documents were published as supposed justification for biogs written by Mr Slater for his website and in which he accused Mr Blomfield of dishonesty, theft, bribery, deceit, perjury and other criminal conduct. 

Three of the document allegations were dismissed as having insufficient evidence that Cameron Slater was responsible for their release.  Cameron Slater claimed that he was not personally responsible for their publication on various document sites, and the Director could not show that he was during the hearing. 

[2] The Director’s case is that the disclosures breached information privacy principle 11 (IPP 11 ), caused significant emotional harm to Mr Blomfield and thereby interfered with his privacy. Mr Slater’s defence is that he is a news medium and therefore exempt from the Privacy Act 1993 because publication of Mr Blomfield’s personal information was a news activity as defined in s 2(1) of that Act. Mr Slater does not dispute publication on the Whale Oil website or on www.scribd.com. Nor does he rely on any of the permitted exceptions to IPP 11.

[3] The issue in these proceedings is whether in relation to any or all of the disclosures of Mr Blomfield’s personal information Mr Slater was a news medium whose business, or part of whose business, consisted of a news activity as defined in the Privacy Act, s 2(1 ).

Out of the remaining 43 disclosures of private information, Cameron Slater defended 12 posts as exemplars. Other posts had previously been ‘removed’ from his site. As the decision commented in discussing a restraining order:-

[157] While Mr Slater told the Tribunal he had taken down the blogs regarding Mr Blomfield the Tribunal was disconcerted by the ease with which Mr Slater was able to retrieve certain blogs and to annex several examples to his affidavit sworn on 6 November 2014.

Most likely these are just not visible to the public but still exist on the site. Plus of course there are copies and fragments of the posts and the disclosed private information are contained in archival sites ranging from the Internet Archive or New Zealand’s National Library to the local and remote sleaze sites.

Like the revolting irresponsible sleaze blog site operated by Cameron Slater’s close collaborator and assistant at the Tribunal, Dermot Nottingham – who was convicted of using his blog of breaching court suppression orders and criminal harassment. I happily assisted in bankrupting Nottingham after his abysmal failure at running a private prosecution against me, another blogger Pete George, and several news medium.

The decision about the news worthiness of the 12 posts by the Tribunal was that :-

[135] With the one exception none of the blogs comprised news activity as defined in the Privacy Act.

In that particular exception, the Tribunal said:-

[103] We accept that an allegation concerning the scamming of a charity would potentially engage the public interest notwithstanding the time gap and that by a narrow margin the biog concerned news, observations on news or current affairs. We are satisfied Mr Slater has established the news medium exemption in relation to this blog.

In other words, the post was potentially newsworthy because of its topic. However tellingly, in the decision they did appear to have examined if the release of private information in emails in that posts was appropriate or relevant or responsible for that particular topic. Which is what they did do in almost all of the other 11 posts.

I rather suspect that this was because if they had looked that closely at this particular post, then it’d have been hard to argue that any of those things were present. I know that when I read that particular post, my opinion was that there was nothing in private information published that substantiated any of the allegations made.

There was merely hyperbole and assertions by Cameron Slater with some rather obvious lack of context issues with the ‘evidence’. I suspect that this exception was described more to point a way for news mediums to show that there was scope for investigative journalism using private information – they just need to do it more competently than a bumbling idiot.

The standard being used by the Tribunal is extremely interesting. There is quite a lot of discussion about when it’d be legitimate for a news medium, who were granted a special and temporary exemption in the Privacy Act, to publish personal information in their role of publishing news for the public good. 

[78.4] The news media exemption and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act do not confer a license at large to publish an individual’s personal information. The exemption  from the Privacy Act has been granted for a purpose. Publication of personal information which does not serve that purpose is not protected by the exemption. 

[78.5] Where an agency publishes the personal information of an identifiable individual and claims the protection of the news medium exemption the question to be addressed is whether the publication of that personal information is a news activity. In the context of a complaint that there has been an interference with the privacy of an individual, it is necessary to focus on what has been said, written or done about the individual and his or her personal information.

Now I have some serious doubts about blogs or bloggers being regarded as news medium or journalists, as I expressed in 2013 in “I think that Judge Blackie got it right” about the posts about Blomfield on Whaleoil. 

Cameron Slater simply isn’t a journalists arsewipe. For him to claim the legal privileges, protections and authority that the journalistic profession holds within our political and economic community makes a travesty of the whole concept of a free and responsible press.

Now I’m aware that many of the marching morons that make up the more extreme sociopathic tendencies here and overseas tend to regard “free” as meaning they can do anything that they childishly  want and that the responsibility as a outmoded concept. But they’re wrong.

A “free press” is one that is unencumbered by oppression or obligation to their sponsors about what or how to report. A “responsible press” doesn’t use their implied authority against individuals in a vendetta. This is literally the argument going on in Britain at present. It is a common pattern with unconstrained and irresponsible organisations who taint all of their better behaved brethren with the stench of excess.

It has been clear for a number of years that the Whaleoil site “demands” money from interested parties for whom it is writing advertorials for. 

I’d note that the last paragraph in the wake  of Dirty Politics and the defamation cases that are currently before the courts – especially the Sellman et al case.

This, in a more measured form, appears to be exactly the line that is being taken by both the civil courts and tribunals that guard our privacy.

Which if the courts and tribunals continue to grant the protections given to mainstream media to the blogs and social media, then they need to also establish what is acceptable behaviour.

In this site with its multiplicity of post authors and commenters we’ve tried to determine where we’d draw the line between responsibility, privacy, the public good, expressing opinion and robust public debate. Our line has largely followed the line previously drawn by the courts and legislation. It is tricky, but the decisions slowly coming through and that the site and authors don’t get pulled up or taken to court (apart from the dimwitted Nottingham private prosecution) seem to indicate that we’re striking a good balance.

 


 

13 comments on “Human Rights decision is quite pointed”

  1. patricia bremner 1

    This was a deserved verdict. No sympathy here. He has made sure no body will get compensation. Therefore he should go to gaol./jail lol lol and not pass go.
    To Mathew Blomfield my heartfelt message of “you did not deserve this” and “I’m sorry you are not getting a huge compensatory sum” from that wretched fellow.,

    • Sacha 1.1

      Bankruptcy just presses pause for a few years. Slater is still liable when it finishes. The assignee may also be able to recover some proceeds from assets held on his behalf in the meantime.

      • patricia bremner 1.1.1

        Oh Thanks Sacha. I’m pleased about that continuing liability on Slater’s part.

  2. Sacha 2

    I am glad the HRRT has focused on *behaviour* as a hallmark of journalism. If you want to claim the protections and privileges of a journalist, then act like one. That applies to current media employees, not just tryhards like Slater.

    • lprent 2.1

      That appears to be an overwhelming result of all of the decisions slowly trickling through.

      The privileges granted to news medium and journalists (and indirectly to social media like this) is not unqualified. In any instance, it needs to be responsibly applied, justified and defended.

  3. Andre 3

    Does the Human Rights Review Tribunal decision create a legal precedent that courts can use for guidance when someone is fighting back against similar arsewipe behaviour in the future? Or will similar issues have to go through the Human Rights Review Tribunal again with the same risk of years of delay?

    • Dukeofurl 3.1

      Its likely only for the Human Rights Adjudicators who first handle complaints before they go to ‘The Tribunal.’
      Its difficult to say legal precedent when its so specific to Slaters and Bloomfield circumstances

    • The decision says that the delay has been fixed by a law change.

      [14] The reasons for the long delay in publishing this decision are explained in Wall v Fairfax New Zealand Ltd (Delay) [2017] NZHRRT. It was not until enactment of the Tribunals Powers and Procedures Legislation Act 2018 that s 99AA of the Human Rights Act was on 14 November 2018 inserted to allow the Governor-General to appoint one or 7 more Deputy Chairpersons of the Tribunal. As at the date of publication of this decision no such appointments had been made.

      See:

      [2] There are two reasons for the delay. First, an unprecedented increase in the Tribunal’s workload and second, the fact that the Human Rights Act 1993 does not allow the appointment of a deputy chair to assist the Chairperson to keep pace with the large inflow of new cases.

      https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Decisions/2017-nzhrrt-8-wall-v-fairfax-new-zealand-ltd-delay.pdf

      Any decision like this one against Slater should aid future decisions.

      The Blomfield v Slater defamation decision also ruled that Slater had no defence as a journalist because the way he ran a sustained defamatory attack was not journalism.

      Click to access CIV20134045218_26102018_JUDG.pdf

      It’s unlikely we will see Slater and Nottingham doing the same sort of extreme attack again any time soon due to the constraints of bankruptcy and gag orders,.

      There will be few if any others dumb enough to go down this track – but it’s possible, there’s signs that some of their associates are trying to keep stoking things.

  4. Michael 4

    I note that Slater is appealing the High Court defamation judgment to the Court of Appeal; I suspect he will also appeal the HRRT decision, in spite of his “bankruptcy” and “incapacity”. It might be worth looking at the identities of individuals in control of Slater’s business and financial interests and passing on any information to the Official Assignee.

    • Blomfield says he is asking for the appeal to be dismissed.

      Blomfield has separately sued Cameron Slater for defamation relating to the 2012 blog posts. The High Court ruled in Blomfield’s favour in February, but Slater is appealing the decision.

      A hearing relating to Slater’s appeal against the High Court’s ruling in the defamation case has been scheduled for March 25.

      Blomfield said he planned to ask the court to dismiss Slater’s appeal.

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/111227466/cameron-slater-privacy-breach-victim-doubts-hell-get-his-70000-damages

      • lprent 4.1.1

        The last I heard (and I have no real idea of the actual veracity), Cameron Slater was claiming at the CoA that the stroke made him unable to appear before the CoA and that he was too incapacitated to instruct a lawyer.

        Now this does sound like the kind of tactic that Slater has used to avoid the courts in the past and then his subsequent actions that repudiate whatever he said.

        Like his remorseful pleas for diversion to the courts after trying to get someone to hack my server, and then his repudiation of those pleas after he got diversion.

        Or his attitudes about suppression orders for other people, until he found them convenient for himself.

        Or many of his other previous issues about being called to account for his actions.

        In this case since the stroke he appears to have been writing some coherent comments (albeit with his rather dull bigotry on full display) on Whaleoil. They certainly don’t indicate any particular inability to instruct a lawyer.

        So it sounds like another stupid tactic. As I wrote a long time back, Cameron has an idiot for a lawyer – that is because he usually wastes the courts time failing miserably when trying to self-represent.

        I suspect that his biggest problem with lawyers will be that he’d have to convince an official assignee that he has any hope of winning, and therefore the OA being willing for him to waste money on a lawyer rather than paying his creditors. Of course the company that operates Whaleoil is also a party to the case, probably on the appeal, is not in liquidation, and so they can continue to appeal.

        But in any case, I suspect that like the High Court, the CoA will simply keep requiring him to submit in accordance to their specifications, the supporting documentation and evidence that is required for his claims to be substantiated.

        That was what eventually led to the decision in the High Court that he hadn’t presented ANY substantive documentation for his claimed defenses against the Blomfield defamation claim despite being given ample time to prepare them.

        It is this insistence on verifiable truth rather than the delusional ravings of a inflated ego that the courts prefer to work with. With the CoA, medical diagnoses and the people who made them rather than unverifiable self-diagnosis.

        Just a matter of time for the courts to steadily remove his recourse to appeals and judicial reviews…

    • Formerly Ross 4.2

      The HRRT awarded Kim Dotcom $90,000 over a breach of privacy. From memory it was appealed through the courts and the decision was overturned. Indeed it was. Having said that, the facts in that case seem quite different to those here.

      https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12135596

  5. A 5

    More legal Slytherin on its way then.

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