Case Number: 913

Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 2003

Verdict: Upheld

Publication: The Press

Ruling Categories: Errors, Apology and Correction Sought

This is a complaint by Mr Robin McCarthy against Christchurch newspaper, The Press, relating to an article published in The Press on 23 October 2002. The article reports that Mr McCarthy had sought an Environment Court enforcement order to make the district council compulsorily acquire a Lake Tekapo privately owned airport and make it available to other commercial ventures. The article stated that the court had struck out the action as an abuse of process.

Mr McCarthy complains that the Environment Court judgment did not cite the ground of abuse of process but rather struck the proceeding out because Mr McCarthy’s application, as a matter of law, revealed no substantive case.

The Press in response accepted initially that it had incorrectly reported the court decision and “offered to put the record straight”. The editor stated that the paper had relied on a media release from the McKenzie District Council which had implied that abuse of process was the ground for the striking out. However, later an acting editor offered an interpretation of the legislation and the judgment which she said justified the reporting of abuse of process being the ground of the striking out.

Mr McCarthy was correct in that the Environment Court judgment did not cite abuse of process as the ground for striking out. The Press editor, Paul Thompson, acknowledged some initial inaccuracy.

This is a local issue and as such the Canterbury public have an interest in access to all the details in this dispute. The Press saw fit to report the judgment and had an obligation to report it carefully and accurately for the general reader. Once it had been drawn to The Press’s attention the newspaper should have corrected the error.

The Press Council upholds this complaint.