Slater loses defamation case | The Jackal

12 Sep 2014

Slater loses defamation case

You might be aware of a certain defamation case taken by a businessman called Matthew Blomfield against National party attack blogger Cameron Slater.

The High Court ruling for that case was made today, with Justice Raynor Asher acknowledging that Slater was likely a journalist, but this didn't protect him from the normal process of disclosure.

Today, Stuff reported:

Court: Cameron Slater a journalist, but must disclose sources

In the district court earlier this year Slater tried to argue that he was protected as a journalist under the Evidence Act from having to disclose sources. The district court said he was not a journalist and Slater appealed to the High Court.

[…]

The judgment dealing with whether Slater was a journalist noted that Slater obtained emails from computer hard-drives and other sources including a Blomfield's filing cabinet.

Slater had said he had one terabyte of computer files previously owned by Blomfield.

Blomfield sought the source of that information and data.

Slater claimed he was protected from disclosing that information by Section 68 of the Evidence Act allowing certain privileges to journalists over information.

What I would like to know is who's the idiot advising Slater about what the law means? Clearly the Evidence Act 2006 states that even if the muckraker is judged to be a journalist, he still has to divulge his sources under certain conditions. Here's the relevant law:

68 Protection of journalists’ sources

(1) If a journalist has promised an informant not to disclose the informant’s identity, neither the journalist nor his or her employer is compellable in a civil or criminal proceeding to answer any question or produce any document that would disclose the identity of the informant or enable that identity to be discovered.

(2) A Judge of the High Court may order that subsection (1) is not to apply if satisfied by a party to a civil or criminal proceeding that, having regard to the issues to be determined in that proceeding, the public interest in the disclosure of evidence of the identity of the informant outweighs—

(a) any likely adverse effect of the disclosure on the informant or any other person; and
(b) the public interest in the communication of facts and opinion to the public by the news media and, accordingly also, in the ability of the news media to access sources of facts.

On this basis, the Judge ruled:

Justice Asher said the case was not a whistle-blowing issue in which sources needed to be protected.

I like it how the Judge differentiated there.

"Any public interest in protecting sources must be further diminished when there is evidence that a personal vendetta appears to be driving (Slater's reports)," Justice Asher said.

"Further, where the material provided by the sources appears to have been unlawfully obtained, that is a further factor lessening the public interest in the free flow of information."

Any lawyer who's worth their salt should have informed Slater that he didn't have a leg to stand on. Instead of dragging this out, Slater should have simply disclosed to the Police who his source of the stolen information was.

The justice said the blog published by Slater "are extreme and vindictive and have the hallmarks of a private feud."

Justice Asher also states that the sources used by Slater came "hard-drive and other documents (that) appear to have been obtained illegitimately."

Slater has therefore been ordered to comply with discovery requirements in the substantive defamation hearing ahead and must pay Blomfield's costs.

If Slater fails to comply with the order to disclose his source, and without knowing if there are any conditions that the court considers appropriate, he may face a contempt of court charge.

Either way the National party propagandist will now have to pay costs, which considering the damage he's caused to Matthew Blomfield's career and the extent of the court proceedings are likely to be extensive.

I wonder if Slater has enough money to keep the repo men from his door?