Judgments – NZ First v SFO

Published judgments in the legal wrangling between the NZ First Party and the Serious Fraud Office.

JUDGMENT OF PALMER J (24 September 2020)

Summary

The Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) intends to issue a public
statement announcing that the SFO has filed a criminal charge of “obtaining by deception” against two defendants in the New Zealand First Foundation (the Foundation) electoral funding case. The two defendants are not Ministers, sitting MPs, candidates at the election or members of their staff. The New Zealand First Party (NZ First) applies for orders prohibiting the Director from issuing the statement until after a government has been formed following the General Election on 17 October 2020. NZ First also applies for this application and all matters relating to it to be suppressed until the same time.

I do not consider NZ First’s case for judicial review is particularly strong, on the basis of the evidence and information before me. There is no evidence before me that the Director’s decision to issue the public statement was influenced by political considerations or that the timeframe she announced for the investigation’s completion was set because of the election. I accept there is a risk of confusion and a negative impact on its electoral prospects. However, I consider there is a significant public interest in the New Zealand voting public being informed during an election campaign about criminal charges of serious fraud against people or organisations related to political parties. Ultimately, I consider the public interest in transparency outweighs the inconvenience of the announcement to NZ First. It will be up to the political system including the media, rather than the judicial system, to ensure the transparency of the announcement is not obscured by confusion and misinformation.

Result

I decline the application for interim orders. Costs of the application will lie where they fall, given the urgency with which the application was dealt with by all parties and the seriousness of the interests at stake.

Mr Pilditch indicated, if the decision went against NZ First, he would need time to consider the decision and get instructions, including about whether to continue to seek suppression of the application and, I infer, whether to appeal. For that purpose, he requested that the existence of the application be suppressed for a few days after my judgment. Otherwise, the right to appeal would be rendered nugatory. Mr Dixon agreed that suppression of the existence of the application should lapse within 48 hours to allow Mr Pilditch to obtain instructions. But that period would fall over the weekend.

I accept suppression of the application and this judgment for a brief period is warranted in order to allow NZ First to consider the judgment and its position. But the urgency and significance of the issues, the conclusion I have reached, and the interests of NZ First and the public in allowing as much time as possible for clarification of the situation before the election, suggest a slightly faster timetable than counsel proposed. I make an interim order suppressing this judgment, the application and all matters relating to it, which lapses at 5 pm Friday 25 September 2020 unless the Court otherwise orders.

ORAL JUDGMENT OF PALMER J (25 September 2020)

Leave a comment

5 Comments

  1. John J Harrison

     /  30th September 2020

    Fantastic, the Judge in eviscerating NZ First in their failed application gave us a clear insight into the paucity of their case.
    Bring on the popcorn!

    Reply
  2. Duker

     /  30th September 2020

    Judith who was fired by Key over the ‘SFO Affair’ now wants it to go away ahead of the next debates.
    Apparently full disclosure doesnt apply to her

    Reply
    • Squirrel alert, hope you and your mates are on double time for all the “good” work you are doing for whataboutism and small furry mammal release.

      Reply
  3. FarmerPete

     /  30th September 2020

    Well it looks like the biggest electoral bribe in NZ history (PGF) is about to be shoved up the collective derrières of NZF by the electorate. Good riddance to them!

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  30th September 2020

      And promising a new $500 mill hospital for Hastings …and Nelson isnt ?…well they say planning will start ‘right away’ …but thats what they said for Dunedin in 2014 election but the ‘business case’ stalled meaning there wasnt anay money

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s