Steven Price

My book

Media Minefield

Guide to NZ Media Law

Official Information Act

Official Information Act

Bill of Rights Act

Media law resources

Feeds (RSS)

« | Main | »

Worst defamation ever?

By Steven | April 7, 2011

Dismissing Vince Siemer’s appeal against NZ’s highest ever defamation damages award, the Court of Appeal said:

We have not had our attention drawn to any worse case of defamation in the British Commonwealth, and our own researches have not disclosed one.

Really? It’s hard to imagine they looked very hard. What about the famous case of Lord Aldington, who was labelled a war criminal, responsible for 70,000 deaths,┬áin 10,000 pamphlets distributed to politicians, the media, and his friends? (By contrast, Siemer criticised Michael Stiassny’s business practices and honesty. His criticisms were vehement and repeated, but were mostly made online; there was a billboard but it only referred to the website. Amazingly, the Court of Appeal referred to no evidence about the number of people who may actually have seen Siemer’s allegations).

Lord Aldington was awarded 1.5 million pounds, back in 1989. In the case I’ve linked to, the European Court of Human Rights found that the damages were so excessive as to be disproportionate, and therefore breached free speech rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

As you may know, we’ve got a Bill of Rights too. It also protects free speech. Any restriction must be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. Somehow the Court of Appeal in this case, despite a fairly lengthy traversal of the principles applying to defamation damages, did not once mention the Bill of Rights Act.

Topics: General | 8,932 Comments »