9 Dec 2019

Christchurch City Council Deon Swiggs decision stands - Judge

9:41 pm on 9 December 2019

A judge has ruled that the outcome of the Christchurch City Council election is valid.

Christchurch city councillor  Deon Swiggs

Supporters of Deon Swiggs lodged a petition in the Christchurch District Court claiming the outcome of the election was void. Photo: RNZ / Eleisha Foon

Deon Swiggs lost his Central Ward seat to Jake McLellan after allegations made by three people as young as 13 claimed Mr Swiggs had engaged in inappropriate late-night messaging, and insisted on hugs instead of handshakes.

Supporters of Mr Swiggs lodged a petition in the Christchurch District Court in November, as they claimed the outcome of the election was void.

They argued that the allegations published about Mr Swiggs "were gravely defamatory of him and extremely damaging to his appeal to voters to the extent they must have destroyed his prospects of success in the election."

They also argued that the allegations were deliberately released to the media by Canterbury Youth Workers Collective to sabotage Mr Swiggs' campaign.

However, in his final decision published today Judge Paul Kellar said the publishing of allegations did not amount to an offence under the Local Electoral Act 2001.

"More importantly, the [decision to publish the allegations] are protected by the right to freedom of expression even if they tended to bring the candidate into disrepute."

Judge Kellar said even if the decision to publish did amount to an irregularity, there was not enough evidence to prove that they would have materially affected the result of the election.

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