Case Number: 2724

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2018

Decision: Not Upheld

Publication: Herald On Sunday


Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of
Court Reporting
Names Suppression Of
Unfair Coverage


The Herald on Sunday published a story on August 12 headlined Suppression for serial offender. Exclusive: Judge rules criminal’s rehabilitation could be at risk.

The article was about a decision by Judge David McNaughton to grant permanent name suppression to an offender who robbed a seriously injured woman lying in a wrecked car.The judge made his decision on a number of grounds including his belief that the offender’s alcohol and drug rehabilitation would be severely compromised if his name was published.

The article also reported the Herald’s opposition to the suppression and noted the judge’s reference to another case where he said aWeekend Herald story directly led to an offender quitting rehabilitation and then going on an armed robbery and crime spree.

It also mentioned that in earlier cases the judge had granted bail to a man who subsequently went on to kill a young woman and that he “also famously booted journalists from the courtroom during the Kim Dotcom case.”

The Complaint

Eric Coyle complained the article was an unfair attack on Judge McNaughton given there was no demonstrable link between this and past cases and described the article as bullying.

The judge made a written decision listing a number of factors supporting his action which appeared to be sound. TheHerald on Sunday assumed readers would know why the suppression order had to be challenged.The article was self-interested and excluded any consideration of the impact on individuals, the wider community or the difficulties judges have in dealing with complex cases.

The Response

Herald on Sunday editor Stuart Dye said the story was a fair, balanced and accurate report of court proceedings.

He said there was a high threshold for permanent name suppression, and, in this case the paper believed it should be tested.

He added that “judges are not immune to criticism – rather the functioning of the court is protected under law; not the dignity and hurt feelings of individual judges.”

The Discussion

The Media Council has considered this case under Principle 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance).

This article is more than just a straight report of the Judge’s ruling and theHerald’s unsuccessful attempt to oppose that. It included critical references to other rulings made by Judge McNaughton and left readers in no doubt that the paper disagreed with his decision.

However, there was no evidence that the article was inaccurate or misleading. Although theHerald clearly disagreed with his ruling, the article was balanced by fairly reporting the Judge’s reasons for granting suppression.

The complaint is not upheld.

Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Hank Schouten, Christina Tay and Tracy Watkins.

Craig Cooper took no part in the consideration of this complaint.


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