W.H. GEDDES AGAINST THE EVENING POST

Case Number: 824

Council Meeting: May 2001

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Evening Post

Ruling Categories: Privacy
Comment and Fact
Balance, Lack Of

Mr Geddes complained that the Evening Post published a story identifying his business in its edition on 15 February 2001 with the establishment of a new Mongrel Mob base in Trentham. The premises were identified as being behind a video store at 571A Ferguson Drive Upper Hutt. Mr Geddes at the time was the occupier of the said premises and therein he conducted his business of a video store. There was more than one story published including the comments of the local Senior Sergeant that there had been a rise in the burglaries in the district since the arrival of the Mongrel Mob. It was conceded that no gang member had been identified as a perpetrator of burglaries and the newspaper printed the comments of the gang spokesman who "scoffed at the police claims." Also in one story there was mention that the local Council was of the opinion by-laws had been breached by the gang's occupancy of the rear premises. The item clearly was of keen local interest.

Mr Geddes's complaint was that his business had been adversely affected by the precise address being supplied of his premises and that the story would have had its purposes met, as far as the newspaper was concerned, without the actual address. In his correspondence with the newspaper and the Council he made reference to several instances where people had spoken about the close proximity of his business to the gang's premises and these references were meant to convey financial damage to him. In a letter to the Press Council he asked for compensation to be made to him.

Mr Geddes was advised that the Council had no power to order compensation. His response was to send newspaper clippings of the release of up-dated statistics which showed a drop in burglaries in the district. This was not really what the complaint was about.

The response of the editor is that the setting up of a gang headquarters in the locality was a matter of public interest - a view obviously shared by the police. The paper denied the articles were sensational. The reason for the precise address needing to be given was that Ferguson Drive is a very long thoroughfare and that it was considered necessary to pinpoint the location.

The Council did not view publication of the story as sensational but a sober presentation of the facts. The Council accepts that there was a necessity for the paper to print the exact address. The stories were not accompanied by a photograph identifying the premises, and were a matter of public interest. The complaint was not upheld.