Landmark Media Case for Simpson Grierson Permits Televised Confession

Auckland – LAWFUEL – The NZ Law Newswire -Simpson Grierson Partners Willy Akel and Tracey Walker represented Television New Zealand Ltd in the landmark Supreme Court decision to allow the broadcast of a confession by Noel Clements Rogers.

The footage became part of a unique case in New Zealand media law when it was ruled inadmissible in the trial of the murder of Katherine Sheffield. Akel and Walker then fought on behalf of TVNZ for the right to broadcast the footage after Rogers was found not guilty for the murder. Rogers appealed to the Supreme Court for continued suppression of the film.

“This was a pathfinder case,” said Willy Akel, a Senior Litigation Partner and Media Law expert at Simpson Grierson. “It questioned the principles behind the emerging tort of privacy and weighed them up against the public’s right to know.

“The majority in the Supreme Court found that the public interest in the open administration of justice in this case outweighed that right of privacy.”

The police footage is part of a case that began in 1995 with the manslaughter conviction of Roger’s uncle Lawrence Lloyd. Lloyd spent 7 years in prison before his conviction was overturned and Rogers was tried and found not guilty of murder.

“This leaves an unresolved homicide,” said Simpson Grierson Litigation and Media specialist Tracey Walker “The public have the right to know what the jury based their verdict on, what information was not available to them and why. The release of this footage is about the transparency of the criminal justice system from start to finish.”

“The 3-2 decision reflects that this was a hard case and it drew on all of our collective and specialised experience in the media and broadcasting. The two interests at stake are both important, but the Court’s endorsement of the public’s right to know should encourage confidence in the Court system”.

Justice Blanchard, one of five judges in the Supreme Court, stated in his ruling that “…openness in the operation of the criminal justice system provides a form of judicial accountability to informed public opinion and an incentive to sound and principled exercise of judicial power. Whenever information regarding a criminal proceeding is suppressed that accountability and that incentive may be weakened.”

“Suppression may itself promote distrust and discontent, as the Court of Appeal pointed out in Television New Zealand v Rogers.” he added.

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