Case Number: 3313

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Principle: Headlines and Captions

Ruling Categories: Court Reporting
Headlines and Captions
Tragedies, Offensive Handling of


  1. The New Zealand Herald published an article on September 6, 2022, headlined
  2. Woman jailed for life for torture and murder denied leave to appeal to Supreme Court.
  3. Suzanne Levy complained that the convicted murderer named in this story, Toko (Ashley) Shane Rei Winter, is a man and not a woman. His crimes were recorded as having been committed by a man and he was detained in a men’s prison. Winter had also had a previous conviction for rape which, in the Crimes Act, requires a penis and so can only be committed by a man.
  4. The headline was deliberately constructed to give the reader the impression that a woman, i.e., a female in the sense that readers would commonly understand the word, tortured and murdered a young woman.
  5. The use of the word “woman” in the headline place additional emphasis on the incorrect sex of the offender. It was inaccurate and deliberately designed to act as “clickbait” because women torturers and murderers were very rare.
  6. The New Zealand Herald’s Editor Murray Kirkness said the article was based directly on a Supreme Court decision which referred throughout to Winter as a female. The article and headline accurately reflected the court’s decision.
  7. Ms Levy responded that the Supreme Court decision did not refer to Winter as either a female or a woman. “While the pronouns she/he are used, these do not provide a determination by the court that Toko Winter is a woman (female). They are simply a courtesy by the court. The Media Council notes the Supreme Court judgment used the pronouns her and she when referring to Winter. It also noted that, in the original sentencing by Justice Brewer, Winter was referred to throughout as a woman and there was no reference to her ever being a man (although there is a reference to an earlier conviction for rape). 
  8. The Council does not know the circumstances, whether Winter has just chosen to identify as a woman, or whether she has had surgery, but the Courts have referred to her as a woman, and the Herald were entitled to rely on their rulings in describing her as a woman.

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.


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