Dominion Post cleared of contempt – the right decision?

October 11, 2008

An interesting decision this week in the New Zealand High Court. Contempt of court charges against Fairfax Media and Dominion Post editor, Tim Pankhurst, were dismissed. Earlier this year the Dom Post published extensive details of a police affidavit alleging weapons offences and related charges against a group of people who were arrested after a long surveillance operation which uncovered supposed “terrorist” training camps in the Urewera ranges.

The contempt charges were brought by the Solicitor-General who argued that the trials of 19 people associated with the case could be prejudiced by the publication of details in the affidavit.

There was an interesting line in the judges’ decision that deserves some exploration.

“Publications which are unlawful can never be regarded as responsible or justifiable,” the judges said.

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