SCOTT GUTHRIE AGAINST NZ HERALD

Case Number: 3311

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Discrimination and Diversity

Ruling Categories: Court Reporting
Defamation
Defamation/Damaging To Reputation
Detail Needlessly Prejudicial
Politicians

Overview

The New Zealand Herald published an article on August 12, 2022 headlined: Dame Tariana Turia’s grandson sentenced to home detention after attempted armed robbery.

 

Scott Guthrie complained that the story was simply written to embarrass and shame Dame Tariana. He asked why the young man in court was linked to her and what public interest was served by reporting her grandson had got himself into trouble.

 

He said he had spoken to Dame Tariana who was too disgusted to even acknowledge the article fearing it would ignite more shocking articles around this subject. She is the head of her whānau and would always stand by her whānau and that was why she was in court. She was there to support her mokopuna and whānau.

 

She was not there to try and sway any sentence said Mr Guthrie and there was no reason to highlight her name in the article.

 

He said the article was a disgrace and asked for the Herald to apologise to Dame Tariana in person and run a public apology and full retraction of the article.

 

New Zealand Herald Managing Editor Shayne Currie said no one had set out to embarrass or shame Dame Tariana.

 

The case was heard in open court and after careful discussion it was considered of public interest given the recent spate of crime involving young people, especially in challenging economic times. In this case, a young man tried to rob a gas station, threatening the manager with a knife. He said he did it because he needed money for his young son’s upcoming birthday.

 

While Dame Tarina obviously had nothing to do with the offending, she became part of the proceedings – and therefore the story – when the defence lawyer started the hearing by drawing the court’s attention to the fact she was in court.

 

“Given Dame Tariana is a former Associate Corrections Minister, we believe she will have been aware of how the court process works and the fact media representatives are often present. As the story notes, our attempts to reach Dame Tariana for comment have not been successful but we remain open to speaking to her,” said Mr Currie

 

Mr Currie said he agreed with Mr Guthrie’s comments regarding Dame Tariana’s character and the Media Council also has regard for her standing. While he acknowledged Mr Guthrie’s concerns, he did not believe a retraction was necessary.

 

As the Council has noted before, embarrassment and shame are consequence that are liable to come with a court appearance and some of that embarrassment is inevitably borne by the families of the accused.

 

This case was in open court and counsel could have applied for name suppression if there were grounds for doing so. That was not done and counsel even drew attention to Dame Tariana’s presence in court alongside other whānau.

 

The hearing was a matter of public interest, in part because of Dame Turia’s involvement and she chose to put herself on the line and be there to show her support. The Media Council believes most people would think more highly of her for standing by her mokopuna. Her presence was notable and reporting it was justifiable and appropriate.

 

There was no evidence that this story breached any Media Council principles.

 

 

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.

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