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High Court Rules Contempt By Fairfax, Pankhurst Not Proven

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Oct 10 NZPA - The High Court today cleared Fairfax New Zealand Ltd of being in contempt of court for running articles on police "terrorism" raids in the Ureweras.

Solicitor-General David Collins, QC, had argued the articles compromised the fair trial of those accused of Arms Act charges after the controversial police raids last October.

He had asked the court to find Fairfax and Dominion Post editor Timothy John Pankhurst in contempt for publishing the articles.

He argued they were the most serious challenge to the public policy underpinning the law of contempt.

But High Court chief judge Tony Randerson and senior judge Warwick Gendall said the issue was whether the solicitor-general had shown beyond reasonable doubt the articles caused a real risk "as distinct from a remote possibility" of interference with the administration of justice, by prejudicing future trials.

They said he had not.

But the two judges said they were concerned for other reasons about the publication of transcripts of conversations police secretly recorded in an investigation into military-style training camps in the Ureweras.

"In publishing the intercepted communications, Fairfax breached at least some of the suppression orders and...Mr Pankhurst was a party to those breaches.

"There was no reasonable basis for any belief by Mr Pankhurst (and through him, Fairfax) that it was lawful to publish the intercepted communication," they said.

"It was in fact unlawful to do so".

To suggest they published in the best traditions of responsible and fearless journalism was not sustainable.

"Publications which are unlawful can never be regarded as responsible or justifiable," they said.

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