Popcorn time: how craven is Slater?

Written By: - Date published: 9:36 pm, September 12th, 2014 - 33 comments
Categories: law, suppression orders - Tags: , , ,

I have just spent a interesting and happy hour reading the judgment of High Court Justice Asher. As the Paepae summarises it.

Here are some relevant excerpts of a High Court judgment* released today on the vexed question of“Can PR attack blogger Cameron Slater hide his clients’ names from someone suing him for defamation by claiming his extensive campaign of PR hits were ‘journalistic’ in nature and heck he is entitled to ‘source protection’?”

Basically, the judge has allowed Cameron Slater and his website to be regarded as ‘news media’ and a ‘journalist’ (Congratulations) but prevented him from claiming ‘source protection’ in the defamation case he’s facing.

Slater must comply with discovery in the normal way and answer interrogatories, because Judge Asher ruled*  it is in the interests of justice that his ‘sources’ be disclosed.

In other words Cameron Slater is completely screwed. He has the choices of:-

  1. He finds some grounds to appeal the second part of the judgment under s68(2) of the Evidence Act. That is unlikely to succeed. However the slow torture of a drawn out set of failed appeals should be good at ‘gentling’ the stupid mad beast that is Cameron Slater.
  2. He goes to prison for some time for defying a court. Based on his previous craven performances this is unlikely. Then he talked up his ego before being taken to court for violating suppression orders. In court he then crumpled like a wet pretzel in front of a judge, I suspect that this time he is just as unlikely to discover some backbone to support his variable ‘principles’.
  3. He gives up his sources and in all likelihood makes them part of the targets for the indefatigable Mr Blomfields defamation case. The widespread suspicion is that he was paid to attack Mr Blomfield by those providing him with information, just as in other examples of similar actions in Dirty Politics and the whaledump documents. If paying for an attack by a disturbed blogger on an enemy doesn’t indicate malevolence and a lack of honest opinion by the blogger in a defamation suit, then I’m not sure what will?

I was rather expecting that Justice Asher would make me and other authors here honorary journalists under section 68 of the Evidence Act 2006, and that is what he did.

I consider that is unfortunate as it offers a route for the continued dumbing down of the paid media into being the usual moronic talkback hosts as the professionalism of journalists continues to descend into the silliness of a morning shock jock.

I do think that it is good because (despite my previous briar patching) because we not only got the decision that we bloggers were entitled to protect our sources, but that it was a privilege that came with responsibilities. It wasn’t a high wall in the way that a cowardly and irresponsible dickhead like Cameron Slater could cower behind with impunity.

So hello to my fellow journalists like Cameron Slater, and my fellow bloggers like John Armstrong, Vernon Small, Fran O’Sullivan, Guyon Espiner and even Jared Savage. Isn’t the law wonderful at levelling the amount of care and effort in a profession and making us all drop down into the muck. Of course in some cases this may in fact be a step up for some ‘jonolists’.

But I have to say that I was particularly taken by Justice Asher’s look at Rule 8.46 of the High Court rules that Slater had raised (see paras 95 to 103)

[103] I set out later my reasons for determining that there is public interest in the disclosure of Mr Slater’s sources.Mr Blomfield has given notice under s 39 of the Defamation Act to Mr Slater, alleging that Messrs Spring, Powell and Price and Ms Easterbrook have constructed a planned attack on him. In relation to the just determination of the issues in the case it would be unjust for Mr Blomfield to have to respond to the defence of honest opinion without knowing the source(s) of the vilifying statements. The extreme nature of the attack on Mr Blomfield and the allegation of a planned attack involving sources are relevant, as is the fact that Mr Slater used confidential information belonging to Mr Blomfield.

[103] Therefore, the interrogatories seeking disclosure of the sources are necessary in the interests of justice, and the protection provided by r 8.46 cannot be invoked by Mr Slater. It follows that for different reasons, I agree with Judge Blackie’s decision that r 8.46 does not apply. In this respect the appeal is unsuccessful

Ouch. Well I guess that means that if Cameron wants to use the “honest opinion” defense, he is going to be required to prove that it was his opinion, and not just one he was paid and prompted for. That may be a bit of a problem for him.

Similarly the “public interest” that Cameron mumbled his way through in court while trying to prove that he was a journalist under 68(1) of the Evidence Act, turns back on him in

[114] As a general proposition, when a journalist such as Mr Slater has presented to the public extreme and vitriolic statements about a person such as Mr Blomfield alleging, as he has, serious crimes by him, there is a public interest in the fair airing of those statements and the circumstances of their making when the issues are traversed in defamation proceedings. The vitriolic remarks indicate that Mr Blomfield is a danger to society. The remarks being deliberately put in the public domain by Mr Slater show there is a public interest in all the circumstances relevant to Mr Blomfield’s challenge.

[115] Moreover, it is in the public interest that court processes to work fairly. The identity of sources may in some cases not assist in relation to assessing whether the statements were true, but in others in assessing the truth of the allegations the identity of the sources may be relevant. Here, a source, such as Mr Spring, had a direct business involvement with Mr Blomfield. It is alleged by Mr Blomfield in his  s 39 notice that Mr Spring and other alleged sources were part of a plan to make perjorative comments about Mr Blomfield. The role of those persons as a source, deliberately planning to hurt Mr Blomfield, could be relevant to their credibility, and thus to the defence of truth. Disclosure of the source is required for the fair working of the court process.

[116] Disclosure of the sources may well assist in relation to the defence of honest opinion. The defence of honest opinion is now in s 10 of the Defamation Act 1992. Section 10(1) provides that the defence will fail unless the defendant proves that the opinion expressed was the defendant’s genuine opinion. Further, s 10(2) provides that where the defendant was not the author of the matter containing the opinion, the defence will fail unless the defendant was the author of the matter containing the opinion. The test is the honesty of the opinion, not its reasonableness.57 The test is now different from that previously at common law. The concepts of malice and corrupt motive no longer arise.58 The opinion must be based on facts which are true or not materially different from the truth.

[117] Therefore to sustain this defence Mr Slater will need to demonstrate that he genuinely held the views that he expressed. In this regard, the identity of those who provided information to Mr Slater may be relevant. ….

Of course anyone who has been following the blogs over the last 7 years knows that the truth or anything remotely like an honest well-formed opinion it is not something that Cameron is particularly interested in. In my opinion, he is an honest employee and this is highlighted in Dirty Politics. Once brought, he faithfully  frames his opinions according to  the needs and wants of his employer.

I think that his ability to think in each transaction about the facts or ‘truth’ is severely limited to figuring out to spin his ‘opinion’ about his new enemy in the most perjorative and effective  manner.

That is certainly what we see in the whaledump  conversations.

[119] Thus, because of the extreme nature of the allegations, the defences of truth and honest opinion that are raised, and the s 39 notice alleging a plan to attack Mr Blomfield by four named persons who are alleged to be sources, there is a public interest in the disclosure of the identity of those sources to enable the defences to be properly evaluated at trial.

Indeed.

The countervailing arguments held little weight. For instance..

[129] This is not a whistleblower case. There are no political issues, or matters of public importance at stake. Mr Blomfield is not a public figure. There is no evidence that his company, now in liquidation, is the subject of ongoing public interest. The claims against him have not appeared to attract significant public interest. The overall impression given by the extensive material that has been provided is that the three named persons involved in the informing, Mr Spring, and possibly Mr Powell and Ms Easterbrook, were in a dispute situation with Mr Blomfield arising out of a failed business venture. There is a good deal of material from the informants which shows a certain personal animosity towards Mr Blomfield. There is nothing to indicate that the informers have been driven by altruistic motives.

[130] I accept Mr Miles’ general submission that there is little public interest in protecting informants intent on pursuing personal vendettas or when conducting personal or commercial attacks. In these circumstances I do not consider that denying Mr Slater the protection of s 68(1) will deter members of the public from communicating confidential material to the media of public importance or interest. While I have held there is a public interest in the disclosure of the sources in this case, there is little public interest in protecting them.

And finally having given Cameron Slater (and me) the now dishonourable status  of running a ‘news medium’ and being a ‘journalist’, Justice Asher strips Cameron Slater of all protection and exposes him to Matthew Blonfield’s cutting disclosure requirements

[139] I consider that the weighing comes down clearly for removing the protection of s 68(1). I make an order under s 68(2) that the protection of s 68(1) is not to apply to Mr Slater in the proceeding.

 

So District Court Judge Blackie did  great job. Only a High Court Judge may make that decision in section 68 of the Evidence Act. By saying that Cameron Slater wasn’t running a news medium, the appeal went to a court that could both make the decision that it was AND make it so that that decision’s effect was overturned. Cool eh? This is also why you don’t screw around with judges. They are really twisty lawyers.

So Cameron Slater must reveal his sources and open them up to inspection or go to prison. But whatever way it goes he will have to spend a lot more time in court.

Pass the popcorn…. This next bit will be fun.

 

33 comments on “Popcorn time: how craven is Slater?”

  1. peterlepaysan 1

    Heh!

  2. Rich 2

    Does it not create precedent which can then be misused later, re the sources?

    • lprent 2.1

      Not particularly. You’ll have to read the decision. But essentially you have to be acting like a complete arsehole or there would have to be an overwhelming public interest argument before the judges would start overriding the promises of any responsible journalists to their sources.

  3. One Anonymous Bloke 3

    Hello, you’ve reached Defamation Services.

    For Mr. Slater press one. Mr. Graham, press two. Mr. Franks, press three, Mr. Key, press four. All our ratfuckers are belong to you.

  4. Matthew 4

    This is hard work. I hope Cam appreciates my effort. That’s 3/0

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    • lprent 4.1

      It certainly is. You really are making him run through the hoops. The decision on costs for this appeal is next. And then you are back to the actual defamation action.

      Umm and then there is question about the guy that shot at you and who inpatiently sent them…..

      • sockpuppet 4.1.1

        Ha ha

        The enemy of my enemy is my friend…….. silly stuff lprent.

        Laudafinem has the best analysis of all of you including the whaleslime.

        • AsleepWhileWalking 4.1.1.1

          This is the same Laudafinem who keeps appearing on ACC forum under a pseudonym as some kind of drugged up nutter, right? The same Laudafinem who thinks Phil Kitchen was part of some extensive conspiracy etc etc (Laudafinem is big on conspiracy…)

          Lprent said pass the popcorn, not pass the P.

          You will find that this site has much better moderation than ACC forum.

          • lprent 4.1.1.1.1

            The dodgy brothers that run that site are real idiots – especially when it comes to legal matters. They appear to have spent far too much time on the wrong end of the legal process and it has distorted their viewpoint.

            They are a rather gutless pair at that. They took some sneak photos of me and published them but they had to be side views because otherwise I would have noticed them.

            They do seem to piss people off a bit. For instance this site is dedicated to them
            http://laudafinemscam.wordpress.com/

  5. Flippant 5

    It’d be nice if this was an objective look at the verdict without the “well he does it so I will too” childish personal attacks.
    Please grow up and let the facts and time speak for itself.
    We’re adults here and can see what Mr Slater is like without the diatribe.
    That cynical ‘point scoring’ really puts me off…

    [lprent: Fine. I’ve had seven years of this arsehole attacking people childishly and I want him gone. Adding you to the permanent ban list as well – under any name.

    If you’d wanted to have commented here, then you’d have at least mentioned something in the decision. But obviously it was beneath your attention as well. ]

  6. Elise 6

    Interesting breakdown of the decision. Question: has the court already gone through the plaintiff’s case and determined the defamatory meaning etc?

    If one of the people Blomfield named is the source and they told him the allegations, then isn’t Slater subject to the repitition rule? – ‘The defendant must prove that the sting is true.’

    I wonder if Slater was being paid to write that stuff about Blomfield. If so, yea… that can’t be an honestly held belief eh.

    One downside to him being declared ‘Journalist’ is that any further defamation cases he faces, he may be able to use the Lange extension to Qualified Privilege defence. Although, a personal vendetta as likely in this case will point to malice.

    Interesting times, I hope this case keeps getting coverage till the end.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 6.1

      Don’t know what the court has done but can’t see that Slater wasn’t paid. I happened to read the stuff written about Blomfield and what stood out to me was that there was no clear nexus between the opinion expressed (and the level of venom it was expressed with) and any identifiable event.

      Given this, the disclosures of payment, and ghost written posts which were published under Slater’s name I’d say he is screwed. Happy days!

  7. Does this open up a gate for defamation cases against Slater, and we then get to the root of “Dirty Politics”? E.g if Cunliffe took a defamation case….with regards to Macasky’s post last night. He would have to disclose sources……or that would be public interest?
    List of potential defamation cases would be long….
    Where is McGreavy?

    • RedBaronCV 7.1

      Interesting. Maybe Cunliffe could say he had been held out in an unjustified poor light (defamed) based on not only the facts but the speed and manner in which they were disclosed. Given the time line, would you join all the bloggers and journo’s together and then suggest that the defamation was carried out by an unknown guiding hand. ( after whaledump there would be a possibilty of an injunction against the persons unknown but too late for that here) so I could imagine if the court found defamation then the court could go “apologise, pay up and if you don’t want to do that then out the guiding hand and they can apologise and pay”.

      Sorta treating those they see as the agent of “unknown” unless they produce “unknown” . Still if the public interest test is high enough they might demand that “unknown ” be outed to prevent them using another mouthpiece to the same ends.

      • lprent 7.1.1

        It is a lot harder for politicians (as it should be). The Lange vs Atkinson decision gives a much larger place for blogs to work within when talking about the people who raise taxes on us and then spend them.

  8. RedBaronCV 8

    I noted some commentary about him being a journalist because he broke the story of the Mayor’s affair. If that is all it takes to be a journalist on the internet …. there must be some other contenders out there.
    I think the judge could have picked a better example???? It wasn’t a matter that caused the loss of ratepayers dollars.

    But yep a classic decision.
    Slater won at law but lost on the facts. Yes you are a journalist but that doesn’t entitle you to run amuck over others when it isn’t a matter of public interest …

  9. Granted 9

    Interesting…

    Cant imagine Slater will end up in jail – pie in the sky really.
    So even if he hands over the source does that actually have an impact as to if Blomfeld was defamed??

    Who does the onus lie with as to prove defamation?

    I have not really followed the case but it all seems like a storm in a teacup…something that happened in 2012????

    We are getting close to 2015 now…..

    • mike s 9.1

      “I have not really followed the case…” – So you don’t know fuck all about it.

      “but…..” – Wait for it…

      “it all seems like a storm in a teacup…” – and kapow! he delivers. Yes, it would look like that to you, Probably because….(Fill in rest of sentence here) (Hint – see first line in this comment)

      “Who does the onus lie with as to prove defamation?” – Really?!?! Ummm, I would guess that Slater would have to prove that his comments were his own honest opinion and not defamatory. He would need evidence that would have to back up his statements. Hang on, isn’t all this in the article in some form or another?

      For example, If I said that you were a fuckwit, you could take me to court for defaming you if you wanted to. I would need to provide good evidence upon which my opinion was based to show that it was a justifiable, reasonable opinion and not just a malicious comment thrown out to discredit you in the public eye. In this example I would provide your post above and consequently would be found not to have defamed you.

      Yes, it happened in 2012 and yes, it’s getting close to 2015 now. What’s that got to do with anything? Oh, hang on, I get it. You’re suggesting that because it happened in 2012 and it’s getting close to 2015 now, that it should just be all forgiven, forgotten, swept under the rug because it’s a really long time since it happened?

      Hmmm, to some people, a defamation against their character, in a public arena, can be a hugely damaging thing. It can have massive negative impacts on their careers, businesses, personal lives and pretty much every other area of their lives you can think of. If it was me I’d fight it until my name was cleared and the defamer made to publicly retract and provide me with compensation for their lies.

      Unless it happened ages ago, in which case I’d just accept that the defamer was right in their comments about me, it was all just a storm in a teacup really anyway and try to move on with my life, or what’s left of it now I’ve allowed the malicious lies that were said about me to be accepted as truth in the public domain.

      Fuckwit.

    • lprent 9.2

      The plaintiff just has to show that the statements are defamatory. That essentially is a test on damage. Slater has already conceded that many of the statements were defamatory in earlier status hearings.

      The onus is on the defense. He has to rely on one of several defences like truth, honest opinion, and possibly several others. I suspect a lot of those get a whole lot less easy after he winds up revealing his sources.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 9.3

      It will be interesting to see what he does. If he received payment which he probably did one of the terms of contract could be confidentiality.

      “I have not really followed the case but it all seems like a storm in a teacup…something that happened in 2012????

      We are getting close to 2015 now…..”

      I don’t think it is fair of you to expect Blomfield (or anyone) to act like Jesus and graciously turn away from what appears to have been an orchestrated and damaging attack by a group of highly vindictive individuals. We aren’t just talking about a single blog post either, it just went on and on.

      The case against Slater is valid and absolutely necessary regardless of how long it takes.

      Edit – just read comment by Mike S. Nicely put.

  10. Jrobin 10

    This is good timing. What implications does this ruling have for ths blog and others though? In terms of breaking news that the MSM won’t touch. It would be dreadful if this ruling stopped posts such as Frank’s one on Dirty Politics Part 2 onDaily Blog for instance. Given that Armstrong, Hoskings and Sabin publish fiction every week it might mean that mainstream journalists are challenged to raise their standards up to those on reputable blogs. Political control of journalists is huge issue for this Election and beyond. What is happening at Maori TV also raises thorny questions about freedom of expression. Perhaps the job description of “journalist” needs legal clarification with ethical standards expected from the writer and protection from political bullying and manipulation written into a formal part of our Constitution. It is obviously not working at present as the actions of so called journalists attest to in the Liu smear campaign.

    • lprent 10.1

      As you can imagine being at the sharp end of any defamation actions against this site, I am pretty well aware of all of the implications. Not only for my posts, but for the posts of other authors and even the comments.

      Our policies are there to minimize the risks while still leaving scope for robust debate. You’ll notice that saying something that asserts a fact (rather than an opinion) without a clear known basis tends to draw a harsh response. Unsubtlety is my watchword with those. I usually make most of my comments a reflection back on the perpetrator using their same techniques. (Which incidentally is why this post is framed the way it is. The style is of a moderate Slater)

      It does mean that I wind up reading a lot of comments ~1800 since 7pm Thursday. But I hit comments that are potentially defamatory quite rarely these days.

      We have had about 10 complaints about defamation over the 7 years we have been running. About half have been handled immediately because they were – they we simply missed.

      The most recent was someone asserting that Ian Wishart plagiarized his material which was something that was clearly untruthful. The perpetrator got banned and now leaves mournful comments in spam.

      The one prior was a candidate for a local body councillor who said something that was fudging the truth. I independently examined the evidence of the author and concluded that the author was correct. So sent back a email explaining why we weren’t going to do anything about it and an assessment of their chances in an action.

  11. Jrobin 11

    Thanks for that lprent. Already noticed you are strict as a moderator. I guess the actions of journalists in being biased are their choice, they are not forced to be. Hopefully this ruling adds status, not added controls, to blogs that are not defamatory.

    • karol 11.1

      I guess the actions of journalists in being biased are their choice, they are not forced to be.

      Except that Dirty Politics shows that Slater attempted to blackmail/threaten some journalists with personal smears if they didn’t run the kinds of stories he approved of.

  12. left for dead 12

    good stuff iprent,better send you a truckload.

  13. adam 13

    Wow, all I can say is Wow. What a great decision. Thanks Iprent for the write up – I’d looked at the herald last night and went to bed happy. Reading your blog has doubled that. I think an unraveling is coming, not only of Slatter, but all were associated with him. It will be slow, and it will be torturous for Slatters victims. That said, good on Mr Blomfield for standing up against this bully, and his cohort of anti-business bully boys.

  14. Travis 14

    Would IRD be looking at this also? Presumably if he has been paid for all these posts by the interest groups this will be reflected in his tax return? Also those doing the paying have to account for it somewhere? A paper trail must exist……bring on the IRD…..they can have their go next….after blomfield…and the SFO enquiry…..and all those others lining up. I have never wished misfortune on another in my life, and I feel a little dirty for thinking this, but as Mikey Hoskings would say “happy days!”

  15. Sable 15

    A good sound decision from our judiciary “just for once”….

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