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Access Denied

By Steven | June 28, 2008

Judge Patrick Treston has refused to allow the media access to video evidence in the assault case against police officers at Whakatane. He reportedly said the media coverage would probably be unfair and would “prejudice” the officers, who had been acquitted. Perhaps he was referring to ongoing employment issues and an Independent Police Conduct Authority investigation.

I haven’t seen his full decision yet, but it sounds wrong to me, and I hope he’ll be overturned on appeal. I think we can rely on Justice Lowell Goddard, the judge heading the IPCA, and the police brass, not to be prejudiced by any media coverage. As to whether that coverage will unfair, I’m not sure the judge properly bore in mind the comments of Supreme Court Justice Andrew Tipping in Rogers v TVNZ from last year. The Supreme Court was called on to decide whether a video (ruled inadmissible in that case) should be released to the media, and were presented with the argument that the use of the video would probably be unbalanced. Justice Tipping said:

Concerns were also expressed that TVNZ might wish to present the video or selected aspects of it in a “sensationalist” rather than a dispassionate and balanced way. That argument invites the Court both to speculate and to enter into the murky waters of presentational censorship and editorial control. I would decline the invitation. The videotape should either be made available to TVNZ or it should not. Matters of presentational and editorial judgment should be left where they belong. If it transpires that there are concerns about how the videotape has been used, they can be addressed by recognised causes of action or by reference to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Still, there is some authority that once a video has been shown in court, that’s enough “open justice” and the courts don’t need to give a copy to the media. I think this case demonstrates why that approach is short-sighted.

Topics: Court records, Suppression orders | 17 Comments »

17 Responses to “Access Denied”

  1. Henry Clayton Says:
    June 29th, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Is it possible that Judge Patrick Treston made a non-disclosure order under section 69 or section 70 of the Evidence Act 2006?

  2. rachelfal Says:
    July 3rd, 2008 at 1:29 am

    It was the defendents lawyers that asked the judge to make that ruling. Having seen the footage they would be afriad of the publics outcry of rage about police brutallity as the prisoner was in no way any danger to them. his refusal to be prossessed an moved to another cell bought on
    the attack

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