Well, the mystery has not been resolved. Who leaked information about the police charges against Tony Veitch to the Sunday papers?
The police have denied it was them and are instead saying that a campaign by Mr Veitch and his representatives is being mounted to undermine their investigation into allegations that the former sports presenter bashed a former girlfriend on perhaps more than one occasion.
So where did the leaks come from?
NZ Criminal Bar Association president Graham Newell told Morning Report today that the police should not be releasing so much information as it could be prejudicial to Mr Veitch’s upcoming trial on assault charges.
However, the police say it wasn’t them. Detective Inspector Scott Beard told Morning Report that the charge sheets and details are only known to a handful of officers and Mr Veitch’s defence team. He made the point that the complainant, Mr Veitch’s former girlfriend Kristin Dunne-Powell has not been given a copy of the police summaries of evidence.
Mr Veitch’s PR team, led by Glenda Hughes of Wellington-based R+R Robertson Communicationshas also denied leaking the information.
All the parties agree that canvassing the police case prior to the trial beginning is irresponsible, but no one’s come forward to accept responsibility.
A few people obviously know where the leaks came from – the editors of the Sunday papers where the stories were prominently covered on Sunday. Should they now come forward and tell the public the source?
A cursory reading of any journalistic code of ethics would suggest not. One of the key principles of such codes is the right to defend sources and to resist compulsion to name them. However, I would question whether that principle can be applied in this case.
The public interest here is in seeing that Mr Veitch gets a fair trial when the matter comes before the Auckland District Court in a few weeks time. It’s therefore material to this story to know who leaked the information because the motivation of the leaker is important.
If the material is being leaked by the police, despite their denials, one has to ask why they would do it.
If it was done by Mr Veitch or someone in his defence/PR team, their motivation is obviously part of the story too. As the Law Society’s Jonathon Krebbs told Morning Report, defence lawyers could now apply to the court for the case to be dismissed on the grounds that Mr Veitch can no longer be guaranteed a fair trial.
This might not happen and it’s rare for judges to dismiss a case because of pre-trial publicity, but the facts are being discussed from a particular context at the moment.
The effect of leaks seems to me to be designed to minimise the impact of the charges and to trivialise the matter. If you look closely that the stories from the Herald on Sunday and the Sunday Star Times, the incidents described seem relatively minor; even though they might not be.
The questions that we need to have answered here include: Who stands to benefit from the leaks and why did the Sunday papers decide to run them in such an uncritical manner.
So far the editors have not made any comment and perhaps they won’t, preferring to hide behind the liine that they’ve taken legal advice and have done nothing wrong.
This is not good enough. Are they being used to generate a particular spin about this case? It would seem so and that is not in the public interest.
Just out of interest, here’s some cute quotes from Glenda Hughes:
“I suppose what worries me most,” muses Glenda, “is that we’re starting to talk about our high profile athletes as ‘brands’. That kind of language dehumanises people, and we should be very careful about how we use it.
We give our athletes media training – but do we ever teach our media what it really means to be a top athlete? Perhaps if we did, we’d have more of a sense of proportion. We wouldn’t laud our athletes to the skies when they win or judge them so very harshly when they fail.”
Yo really couldn’t wish for a better second in your corner.