Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters’ lawyer, Brian Henry, wants to argue particular reporters linked to the leaking of the New Zealand First leader’s pension details were charading as journalists and therefore may not be able to claim usual media protections under the law, the High Court at Auckland has heard.
Mr Henry and the lawyers for the nine potential defendants Mr Peters intends to sue over the leaking of his pension details came to court this morning for a largely procedural hearing.
The journalists named as potential defendants include Tim Murphy of Newsroom and Lloyd Burr of Newshub. National Party MPs Paula Bennett, Steven Joyce, Anne Tolley and Bill English are also possible defendants as well as party staffers of the time, Wayne Eagleson and Clark Hennessy. The chief executive of Ministry of Social Development, Brendan Boyle, is also a potential defendant.
Mr Peters wants a discovery order ahead of making a formal claim. This is allowed under the High Court rules, although Justice Anne Hinton indicated during the hearing that such an application was uncommon.
During the hearing, Mr Henry indicated there could still be a settlement reached with some parties. He also claimed Mr Murphy, he believed, had had the information about the pension payment but did not publish it.
‘’This is about dirty politics and an illegal act and, when it comes to the journalists, it is our understanding that some of the journalists were not acting as journalists as you would expect they were.’’
He suggested Mr Murphy had been ‘’big mouthing around town’’ and that, while another reporter had been given the information and not published it, others were part of a ‘’political set up’’ and would be challenged on their right to journalists' privilege because they were just charading as journalists.
The lawyer for Mr Murphy, Anderson Creigh Lai’s Andy Glenie asked for a draft statement of claim to be prepared, because “it is not yet clear who is under the gun, it is not clear who the actual defendant to the actions will be.’’
Mr Henry said he would do so but said that in his view it would not help, and that most of the information had been indicated in Mr Peters' affidavit. He said a new affidavit filed by Mr Peters would be unlikely to contain anything new from the one that has already been filed.
A full hearing on the matter is not expected until next year.
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