The defamation trial between Sir Robert Jones and Renae Maihi saw Sir Robert’s lawyer Fletcher Pilditch corrected on his reference to his client as “Sir Jones”, as the Wellington trial commenced today.
Pilditch, a former Crown Prosecutor in Rotorua, will need to be on his mettle for a case involving a satirical column written about Maori in the National Business Review.
Sir Robert, a well known commentator, humourist, libertarian and writer as well as a long-standing businessman and LawFuel contributor, is preparing a robust defence of the allegation of racism. He is seeking a declaration of defamation rather than damages.
The 2018 column was taken as offensive and resulted in a petition, organised by the defendant Mihi, of almost 70,000 seeking to strip Sir Robert of the knighthood that Pilditch was having difficulty using correctly.
Howeever the clarification of the legal definition of ‘racism’, the issue of free speech and the increasing clamour for strong ‘hate speech’ laws will be a central focus for the case.
Whilst the Human Rights Act prevents speech that may arouse hostility on the grounds of race (among others), the Bill of Rights Act preserves the right to free speech.
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