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Crown Law Office should act on terrorism reporting

14 November 2007

Crown Law Office should act on terrorism raid reporting

Green Party MP Keith Locke has called on the Crown Law Office to take action against the Dominion-Post over its decision to publish excerpts from police affidavits on the 'terrorism' raids.

"The Crown Law Office warned TV3 last week that it could face contempt of court charges if it published the Police information it held on the terrorism raids. Despite that warning, the Dominion-Post has gone ahead and published excerpts from a Police affidavit. By doing so, it has jeopardized the rights to a fair trial of all of those who will be facing arms charges in connection with these raids.

"All 16 people facing charges have now been smeared by these unattributed snippets, that they will not be able to contest in court because the surveillance evidence will not be admissible. There can hardly now be a prospective juror in the country who will not have been exposed to this prejudicial information.

"The rules on disclosure exist for good reason, to protect the right to a fair trial. It is not for a media organization to decide when it will respect those rules - as it did when it withheld information it had about the accused in the Louise Nicholas case - and when it will decide to flout them.

"Crown Law cannot be seen to condone trial by media in this, or any other case.

"There is considerable public interest in this whole affair, and more information can justifably be released after the trials. The Greens have been pushing for an independent inquiry into Operation 8, its effects on the community, and whether the Police did overreach their legal mandate. The release of further information in the context of such an inquiry would be the most appropriate thing to do.

"By and large, the media do observe the rules. Most of the time, the media accept the fact that not everything that is interesting to the public, is also in the public interest to be released - especially when this is done without regard for the impact on any related court proceedings.

"The failure by the media this time to respect the rights of the people accused to a fair trial is a sign of the hysteria being generated around these raids - but the actions of the Dominion-Post cannot be condoned, or be allowed to set a precedent," Mr Locke says.


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