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Winston Peters sues for defamation

By Steven | August 18, 2017

Winston Peters has sued AM Show presenter, former Black Cap opener, and general larrikin Mark Richardson for defamation. The NZ Herald summarises the offending statements:

Richardson said Peters was a “political predator” and took advantage of civil unrest to grandstand, attaching himself to an injury like a “political white blood cell”, or pus.

Now, I haven’t seen the statement of claim, so I don’t know whether this is the thrust of the claim. And I didn’t hear the programme, so I don’t know the context to the statements, which can often affect their meaning. I can’t guess whether they could be provably true.

Nevertheless this lawsuit seems… optimistic. On the face of it, it looks like these comments would probably be found to be recognisable as opinion, which gets you half-way to an honest opinion defence. It would not be too hard to identify a factual platform for the opinion – Mr Richardson would only need to set out some well-known events that might be said to be “injuries” that Mr Peters has commented upon to political advantage. That would get him most of the rest of the way to an honest opinion defence. The opinion need not be sound or reasonable, it need only be honestly held.

And even if that defence failed, this is surely political speech covered by the the Lange case. That defence is lost if Mr Richardson has failed to give such responsible consideration to the truth or falsity of his comments as a jury finds he should have given. Just how much care is required of a breakfast TV sidekick is something our courts have yet to pronounce on. It would be interesting to see them do so if the case gets that far.

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