14 Sep 2010

Blogger convicted of breaching suppression orders

8:59 pm on 14 September 2010

A New Zealand judge has warned people who use the internet they have responsibilities and there will be consequences for those who break the law.

Judge David Harvey's warning came as he convicted an Auckland blogger for breaching name suppression orders online.

Cameron Slater is the first blogger in New Zealand to be convicted for breaking suppression orders.

Slater, who writes for the Whale Oil blog, originally faced 10 charges: nine of breaching non-publication orders and one of making a post that was likely to identify a victim of a sexual crime.

Many of those named are high-profile New Zealanders.

Judge Harvey ruled in the Auckland District Court on Tuesday that Slater had a case to answer.

He was found guilty of nine charges, while one charge was dismissed. The judge fined Slater $6750 on the charges, as well as imposing costs on each charge totalling $1170.

The court was told Slater often used pictures and in another case binary code to identify people whose names had been suppressed in court cases.

Slater's lawyer Greg Thwaite made several final arguments in court, including that publishing suppressed names in foreign languages would not be against the law.

But Judge Harvey said Slater stepped over the line when he chose to publish the names, showed no remorse and acted in a calculated and deliberate way.

"The fact of the matter is that you stepped over the line when you chose to publish names that had been the subject of non-publication orders," the judge said.

"Not only that, but you made valued judgements about the names that you were going to publish and the names that you were not going to publish."

"You set yourself up as a judge and jury as far as the publication of names was concerned knowing that those names were the subject of non-publication orders, but willing to flout the law notwithstanding."

Judge Harvey said the case was not about whether the law should allow non-publication orders - that is a debate for another forum.

Law still unclear - Slater

Outside court, Slater said the law remains unclear and disagreed with the judge that he stepped over the line.

"Well, what the judge has now said in his judgement is that if you publish just a name, then you are guilty of breaching a non-publication order.

"That means the phonebook is guilty; that means the sign of somebody's business that has their name on it is guilty. The law has not been clarified by this."

Slater said he would not rule out publishing more suppressed names on his website and is considering appealing against the ruling.