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Feeling sorry for Vince?

By Steven | June 17, 2008

Poor Vincent Siemer. Facing a limitless stretch in the slammer for … what? A couple of websites? Oath.

I’m afraid I find it difficult to get too worked up about Vince’s plight. He’d like to pitch his troubles as a freedom of expression battle against a corrupt businessman (his nemesis, Michael Stiassny), and corrupt lawyers (including his own), and corrupt judges (pretty much anyone who’s ruled against him, in a couple of dozen court hearings). But what it’s really about is his ongoing and flagrant refusal to comply with court orders.

He’s already been held in contempt in two cases (the second upheld by the Court of Appeal). He had been injuncted from publishing particular material about Stiassny, and had continued to do so. His websites are here and here, and it seems here, and he’s got a book out that you can buy here. I’ve ordered my copy, before it gets banned. Will it breach the court order not to:

Publish in any form any information containing allegations of criminal or unethical conduct or as to improper personal enrichment on the part of the plaintiffs in relation to their conduct of the receivership of Paragon Oil Systems Ltd; any claim that the plaintiffs deliberately overcharged Paragon Oil Systems Ltd in the sum of $10,000; together with information as to the fact of  complaints made by Mr Siemer and/or Paragon Oil Systems Ltd to ICANZ or to the Serious Fraud Office; and including any information obtained by Mr Siemer or Paragon Oil Systems Ltd in the course of discovery in any proceedings pending further order of the Court…

This injunction is fairly narrowly tailored. The original injunction – by Winkelmann J – prevented Siemer from publishing anything at all on his website relating to Stiassny. That’s really too broad to ever be justified. It was narrowed by Ellen France J about a month later. Note that the injunction is an interim one. It’s in place pending the final determination of the defamation case. If Siemer can prove that his allegations are true, he will be able to reinstate the banned content. The courts generally do not grant this sort of injunction in defamation cases. They only did so here because two High Court judges were convinced that there was no basis for Siemer’s allegations:

Justice France: Having assessed the evidence, I conclude this is one of those exceptional cases where the Court can say that there is no reasonable possibility of a defence of truth succeeding in relation to any allegations of criminal or unethical conduct or as to improper personal enrichment.

[UPDATE: I’d missed this point, but the Court of Appeal preferred to base the injunction on an agreement struck between Siemer and Stiassny not to publicly diss each other, rather than on defamation.]

Siemer continued to publish such allegations. He was fined after the first contempt and sentenced to 6 weeks in jail after the second one.

He objects that he was tried “in absentia” – he was overseas at the time of the second trial.  Which might be outrageous, except for the fact that he’d known about the hearing date, hadn’t filed any documents, hadn’t engaged legal counsel, and had simply emailed the court to say he wouldn’t be making it. They said he needed to formally apply for a different date. He didn’t.

It should probably also be noted that the evidence against him at this hearing included an email confession:

Gentlemen, Now that the Court of Appeal has ignored the evidence that your injunction was improperly obtained, I hope you don’t mind that I ignore the injunction.

His websites still contain some of the same content identified by the court as being in contempt. Six weeks in jail didn’t work. What’s a Solicitor-General to do? Putting him in jail until he agrees to comply with the court order is an end-of-tether penalty. But it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

Topics: Contempt of Court, Defamation, Injunctions, Internet issues | 23 Comments »

23 Responses to “Feeling sorry for Vince?”

  1. Katie Says:
    June 17th, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Hi Steven,

    Interesting post. What’s the legality around seeking an injunction and not following it up with a trial? Has the defamation case been waiting three years to be heard?
    To me, it doesn’t seem ethical that someone can block content indefinitely by alleging that it’s defamatory, without the other person having the chance to prove it true in court.

    Cheers,
    Katie

  2. Steven Says:
    June 18th, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Fair question. The short answer is that I don’t know what’s going on in the case. Usually, the reality is that once a plaintiff has an injunction, he or she has little incentive to take any further steps. Often, the injunction ends up being effectively the end of the matter. But the defendant has the ability to push the case along to a hearing to have the issue finally determined. While Siemer has been involved in a large number of claims and applications to the court, including many that he has brought himself, I can only guess that he has not been taking steps to press for a trial on this one.

  3. Kiwiblog » Blog Archive » Vince Siemer Says:
    June 18th, 2008 at 10:12 am

    […] be supporting the rights of someone to say what they want on their website? Well no. Let us turn to Steven Price for some useful facts on the case: I’m afraid I find it difficult to get too worked up about Vince’s plight. He’d […]

  4. Jodie Says:
    June 18th, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    A very rare order has been made debarring Siemer from defending himself against Stiassny’s defamation case because Siemer failed to pay $200,000+ costs to Stiassny for bringing a contempt action against Siemer for ingnoring the injunction of France J by maintaining the website claims. Clear?!.

    While it is true that Siemer has had a unenviable record in recent Court proceedings, the most interesting part of the case was no doubt the ‘Fardell QC’ aspect, where Siemer was having some preliminary success, on his own, against one of our most formidable lawyers. Siemer was suing his former lawyer Fardell for conflict of interest claiming Fardell didn’t make proper disclosure of his relationship with Stiassny when advising Siemer to put his company into voluntary liquidation with Stiassny. Siemer and Stiassny then fell out (understatement) over the receivership. Siemer had won interrogatories against Fardell and the High Court had unusually ordered Fardell to make his laptop available for examination. He had a meeting at his house with his junior counsel in that case, and then went for a walk. His body was later found at the bottom of the cliffs at Takapuna. Fardell’s estate then hired Waalkens QC to represent them at the Coroners enquiry (which found no evidence of suicide).

    It is a shame that Siemer didn’t pursue his cases in a way that would have allowed for a resoultion of his claims – for, if true, they hint at some of the more odious aspects of the oldboys network that could well do with exposing.

    His defiance of the injunction stems from the unjustified broadness of France J’s injunction, but has left the Courts with little other option in dealing with him. It is sad to see an intelligent and productive person martyring themselves for possibily genuine reasons because of somewhat misguided principles.

  5. christopher mitson Says:
    June 18th, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    I feel uneasy about this situation. If I feel justified in accusing a former Fair Go lawyer and current Vic lecturer of being a slimy pornographer who raped my goldfish, then it is no doubt fair and just that I be hauled into court for a defamation hearing. But what if this vile person simply chooses to apply for an injunction and then fails to proceed with a defamation case? Where I come from, it’s called a gagging writ. I have no knowledge of the case in question but I am less than sanguine that justice is served by banging this bloke up indefinitely. Smacks of Star Chamber stuff to me. Is there no legal method of telling the aggrieved injunction-seeker to put up or shut up?

  6. Steven Says:
    June 19th, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    If I were indeed a slimy pornographer who raped Chris’s goldfish and I sought injunction to prevent him from saying so, he could:
    1. Turn up at the initial injunction hearing, even if he hadn’t filed any papers or yet been served, to put his case to the judge;
    2. Insist on another hearing shortly afterwards on notice to argue against the the interim injunction when he’s had a fair chance to prepare (the courts will bend over backwards to accommodate him in his desire to have the matter revisited quickly);
    3. Point out to the judge the numerous cases that say injunctions are not to be granted in defamation cases unless it’s absolutely clear that there’s no foundation for any defence;
    4. Call the Bill of Rights in aid to ensure that whatever injuction was granted was granted in narrow terms;
    5. If the injunction is granted anyway, appeal against it, or against its width. The further up the judicial chain he gets, the more likely he is to find judges requiring a very robust justification for any speech suppression;
    6. Apply to have my cases dismissed as vexatious if he can show I have no intention to proceed to trial;
    7. If the appeal fails, exercise his rights to obtain, through court processes, documents and information from me that may help him prove the truth of his assertions;
    8. Apply to have the case struck out for want of prosecution if I take no steps to pursue it for 12 months;
    9. At trial, prove to a judge or jury on balance of probabilities that I am indeed a slimy pornographer who raped his goldfish, at which point the injunction will be lifted and he will get costs.

    Of course, that’s unless I can get Chris debarred from pursuing the case for failure to pay costs.

    Still, if anything, I think this shows that the balance of the law is in favour of defendants, not plaintiffs, in defamation cases.

  7. geoff Says:
    June 23rd, 2008 at 10:18 am

    While I agree that Vince Siemer could have played his cards more astutely I would be wary of being too disparaging.

    It wasn’t so long ago that it was ‘poor Rob’. With the dust almost settled on the Berryman Case Rob Moodie is having the last laugh – now it’s more like poor Kevin (M), Tim, Stephen , Roger, Terence and Kevin (A).

    Granted, Vince’s e-mail to the Court was not a good look. But neither was Judith Potter’s decision to abandon a trial because it didn’t fit in with her holiday plans.

    Michael Stiassny can’t be short of a buck, so why doesn’t he simply put Siemer to the sword? The longer this goes on for the more it looks like Stiassny has something to hide. With Siemer’s claiming Stiassny has friends at Court, putting the former in the slammer, particularly in light of the Berryman fiasco, will only add to the public perception that the courts in this country are a closed shop.

  8. Steven Says:
    June 23rd, 2008 at 10:42 am

    What’s your other evidence that the courts are a “closed shop”…? I don’t even know what you mean by that.

    And why should Stiassny spend his money pressing for trial when Siemer won’t even obey the interim injunction?

    And if Moodie is having the last laugh, it’s largely because his latest case was badly misreported in the media.

  9. geoff Says:
    June 23rd, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Well Steven, I could ask you what’s your evidence that the case was badly reported in the media?

    [Steven replies, rather belatedly: that evidence would be here: http://www.medialawjournal.co.nz/?p=105%5D

  10. geoff Says:
    June 28th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I suppose the fact that the coroner who blamed farmers Margaret and Keith Berryman for the death of beekeeper Kenneth Richards in the collapse of a near-new swing bridge built by the army was himself a former territorial army officer isn’t an example of ‘çlosed shop’.

    It’s just ‘misreporting’by the media!

  11. Steven Says:
    June 28th, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Um, coroners aren’t judges. This particular coroner wasn’t told about the army’s evidence of their failings. Once the judiciary found out about that, they strongly condemned the army.

    Your point was…?

  12. geoff Says:
    June 29th, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Yeah, by preventing the public access to the Butcher Report,
    and those involved in the cover up promoted to district court judges.

    While a coroner isn’t technically a judge, you know as well as I do that he should have declared a conflict of interest from the start.

    Your point about misreporting was..?

  13. beef-hooked Says:
    July 20th, 2008 at 10:36 am

    What’s your other evidence that the courts are a “closed shop”…? I don’t even know what you mean by that.

    Hey just take a look at Judge Potter’s latest decision to discharge a cyberpunk without conviction…ok hes been fined but he still gets to make $20k on the deal and a job offer.

    The NZ justice system is the laughing stock of the western world with Aussie judges refusing to deport pedophiles because of the perception that it is impossible to get a fair trial in godzone.

    I have to applaud Vince for his efforts and the exposure his site has given to Rob Moodie, Anne Hunt and others. Given that the justice system seems to protect goldfish rapists under the protection of chicken rooters, its time the sheeple of NZ woke up to the fact that the administration of the law here has gone to the dogs.

  14. Wingate Says:
    August 19th, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    I agree with those questioning the merits of this gagging order hanging over Vince Siemer. Anyone who has read the submissions in the case of David Collins v V.Siemer must be worried. As we know Vince Siemer has several web sites that carry information about his views on corruption in New Zealand.

    For keeping the web sites open and was held in contempt and jailed for 6 weeks. Undeterred and still determined to make his stand Mr Siemer again faced court from which last month ordered another jail sentence. Yet through all this the New Zealand Courts appear to have no interest in addressing and dealing with the corruption issues covered on Vince Siemer’s web sites which is a worrying point.

    I raise a few points that any concerned New Zealander must consider:

    You would have heard the saying – “We get the leaders we deserve.” David Lange the late New Zealand Prime Minister said that to me. Several QC’s have also said, “The courts are not about accuracy, they are about bringing a resolve between parties.” – So between the politicians and the judiciary, our two most important fiduciaries, with immunity they do as they wish and can forget their duty of care. Think about the moral question here; – Politicians and judges say to society “Trust us with your rights and freedoms”- and we confer that power to them. They are both our most important fiduciaries. Yet in reality the power is ours to control yet we leave it to politicians and judges to use as they wish and the results of that can be seen in our daily news with crime is out of control and the New Zealand economy in ruins.

    It is a human weakness that as soon as you put people together, even judges and politicians, they somehow sink, cooperatively, below the level required to successfully manage a nation. Parents on a school committee, or people of parliament are the same; their virtues vanish, their vices and bias pop out, all reinforced by the self-confidence which the power of numbers and position brings. And for centuries the judiciary and politicians have build walls to protect their power which has allowed them to demand and obtain some of the highest incomes in our society.

    As a litigant who has spent $5.5m in the New Zealand Court system I know first hand the problems people face when seeking justice. I found the legal system is about law society members making money. When people seek help to protect rights they need a lawyer who will give them a bill. When people ask the justice system to correct a wrong the judges have caused they get silence. When people seek politicians help with a judicial problem they discover our politicians are gagged by a rule known as separation of power. This on-going failure is allowed and many good people suffer. The separation of power rules are justified by our leaders on the basis it provides integrity. Yet in reality, separation allows both the political and judicial structures to become incompetent monopolies that are self serving. This is why we have the appalling results and why our streets and homes are no longer safe. Our country is failing both socially and economically and the finger must be pointed at this system of crown management that protects incompetence with immunity.

    After 30 years of dealing with idiots in power I have come to believe our only solution is we the people must demand the removal crown and judicial immunity. After all liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right and a desire for information; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible and divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, by that I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers. And by having a special jury to investigate the conduct of our judges and politicians and their decisions, is required if we are people who favour democracy.

    Many suggest the basic problem of stopping human rights violations and political negligence stems from the lack of understanding by media and politicians on the laws of fiduciary control. In equity fiduciary control suggests obligations that not only comprise of duties of good faith and loyalty, but also include duties of skill and competence in managing the people’s interests. After all, Government is a trust structure created by people to manage certain services within society with the politicians and judges depended on by the people to do that task. Therefore the relationship between the crown and the people being governed is clearly a fiduciary one.

    Our rights and legal protection are meaningless where our right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. The rights of liberty, of all individual rights, are the dread of tyrants. It is the right which tyrants first strike down because they know its power. Courts dishing out injustice are sure to tremble when people are allowed to reason. There can be no right of speech where any man is compelled to suppress his honest sentiments. Equally clear is the right to hear those honest sentiments and the New Zealand courts are denying that basic right. To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. And with our judgements that on the surface appear to be eloquently drafted, some of them audited by a jury would expose our judges too often have forgotten the people while they enjoy their $6000 per week. We have been served with both good and bad decisions and allowing analysis of those decisions can only result in an improvement of our service to our nation. We need change it will I think result in a better society for all rather than a few.

    For additonal reading I refer you to http://courtsofappeal.blogspot.com/

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