7 August 2006 – LAWFUEL – Press Release Service – TVNZ and its legal advisors Simpson Grierson have today achieved two exceptional wins in the Court of Appeal.
The judgments relate to the Rainbow Warrior bombing case and the videotaped confession of Noel Rogers which had been ruled inadmissible in his trial on charges of murdering Katherine Sheffield in 1994.
Acting for TVNZ in the Rogers case were Simpson Grierson litigation partners William Akel and Tracey Walker. TVNZ appealed an injunction restraining it from broadcasting the acquitted man’s (Noel Rogers) videotaped confession to the murder. Rogers’ confession had been ruled inadmissible at trial on the basis Police had breached the Bill of Rights by denying Rogers his right to legal advice.
The Court of Appeal agreed with TVNZ that legitimate public concern in this case outweighed Rogers’ privacy interests.
“This judgment says all the issues around this case can all now be aired and debated without restriction,” says Walker. “The public can see the confession and debate why it was ruled inadmissible. The fact that the public interest trumped an individual’s privacy interests confirms the fundamental importance of open justice.”
In the Rainbow Warrior case, TVNZ (represented by Simpson Grierson litigation partner William Akel) has won the right to obtain and play footage of Mafart and Prieur pleading guilty to the manslaughter of photographer Fernando Pereira following the Rainbow Warrior bombing in 1985.
The only images available of the court proceedings were from archived closed circuit television footage used to relay events to the large media contingent attending the trial.
Mafart and Prieur had pleaded guilty, but argued that broadcasting the closed circuit video footage would unduly affect their privacy interests. The Court of Appeal was of the view that Mafart and Prieur “were attempting to ensure that publicity of the events surrounding the Rainbow Warrior bombing occurred only on their terms”.
But the Court found that the footage recorded a public event of importance and use of visual images showing Mafart and Prieur pleading guilty would provide a powerful mechanism for conveying information about the events surrounding the bombing. “New generations of New Zealanders who did not live through the Rainbow Warrior incident will benefit by learning about it through not only the spoken and written word, but through the images of this footage.”
“The real winner in these cases is the public,” says Akel. “Any limitations on the public’s right to know and freedom of the press must be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”