Ambrose sues Key – too late?

Bradley Ambrose has filed defamation papers against John Key. Apparently the limitations period for defamation claims is only two years and it relates to comments Key made over three yeas ago. Was it filed over a year ago or is it too late?

Ambrose to sue PM over teapot tape

Bradley Ambrose is the freelance reporter at the centre of the so-called teapot tape incident in November 2011.

According to legal documents obtained by Radio New Zealand, Mr Ambrose says Mr Key made defamatory comments about him on three occasions.

Documents filed by the Prime Minister’s lawyer say the comments are true and that they were John Key’s honest opinion.

The case is the latest development in the saga of the staged “cup of tea” between the then ACT Party candidate for Epsom, John Banks, and John Key.

Shortly before the 2011 election, major media organisations, including Radio New Zealand, were invited to cover the meeting which effectively saw John Key endorsing Mr Banks to Epsom voters.

Mr Ambrose was one of the reporters covering the event.

The pair posed for photographs at a cafe before heading inside for a cup of tea.

According to court documents, Ambrose left a recording device on the table by accident and it recorded the conversation.

A document filed by Mr Key’s lawyer states the Prime Minister believed Ambrose had made the recording on purpose.

Mr Ambrose has always denied this.

Mr Ambrose is asking for $500,000 dollars in aggravated damages relating to comments made by the Prime Minister at a media conference three days after the cup of tea meeting.

The following day, on 15 November, Mr Key gave an interview on TV3’s Firstline programme in which he made more comments about the recording.

Mr Ambrose is asking for a further $500,000 over that interview.

The next day Mr Key spoke to journalists in Upper Hutt where he again made comments about the incident. Mr Ambrose is asking for a further $250,000 in relation to that incident.

The timing of this has been queries in comments a post at Kiwiblog: Ambrose sues Key


Why did it take 3 years for him to bring the case?

Surely it’s not to create noise to cover what might soon come out about “Dirty Politics”?

Ambrose involved in ‘Dirty Politics’?


A good journalist would ask Mr Ambrose who is funding his case.

Nick R (a lawyer):

The limitations period for defamation claims is only 2 years, so this proceeding should have been filed more than a year ago.

Was it filed in time and has only come to the surface? Or has someone stuffed up?

Rich Prick (I think also a lawyer) on this too:

I presume Mr Ambrose has only just issued proceedings. If so, he has a slight problem in that the limitation period for a defamation claim is two years. And I can’t see how he can argue late knowledge. Section 15 of the Limitation Act 2010.

alex Masterley (also a lawyer):

I was thinking about the limitation point as well.
If he has only just issued proceedings his lawyer should be dusting off his PI policy.

Penny Bright suggests it might have been filed some time ago.

I think you’ll find these proceedings have been around for some time?

Just haven’t had much publicity.

That’s my understanding.

Did she already know about this? She has had involvement in various legal proceedings, including the case against John Banks.


You need two things to run a defamation case. The first is a reputation. It needs to be spotless or you will be shredded. The second is money. If you lose, you pay the winner’s and your own costs. All of them. If you win less than any settlement offer, you will also pay the costs. Unless you are a person of substance, the costs of a defamation action will break you. It is a perilous path to pursue.

Keeping Stock:

The rather large hurdle Mr Ambrose faces is the question lawyers for the defendant(s) will surely ask him; why, having accidently and unintentionally recorded a private conversation between John Key and John Banks did he not immediately delete the recording, instead of passing it on to broadcast and print media?

Mr Ambrose’s suit for defamation will almost certainly fail as a consequence of his own attention-seeking actions in the wake of the “accidental” recording.

It’s is pertinent to ask if Ambrose is funding this action himself, and can cover any costs that will be incurred and potentially awarded against him.

Jack5 links to some background on Ambrose on Stuff – Teacup cameraman’s police past -, which includes:

The cameraman responsible for the teacup tape is a former police constable who was suspended from the force while connections with a militia leader were investigated.

Bradley Ambrose, formerly known as Brad White, was investigated by police in 2000 for his connection with Kelvyn Alp, an ex-soldier who was reportedly trying to recruit a private army to oppose the government. Ambrose returned to police work after the investigation but subsequently left the force.

That doesn’t affect the facts of the defamation action, but it aids understanding of what might be behind it.

Leave a comment


  1. Mike C

     /  9th December 2014

    I’ve never heard of Ambrose, but he clearly has a really crappy useless lawyer. LOL.

  2. Kittycatkin

     /  9th December 2014

    Thank goodness.

    Of course he accidentally left that recorder there, turned on-I believe him, don’t you ? 😀

  3. Duncan Garner bought that recording off Bradley White Ambrose.

  4. Mike C

     /  10th December 2014

    God I hope Penny Bright is found to be part of the conspiracy to take down the National Government 🙂

  1. Ambrose defamation suit appears to be outside limitation period | Your NZ

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