Nottingham conviction and sentence appeal – judgment

The Court of Appeal judgment of Dermot Nottingham’s unsuccessful appeals against conviction and sentence (and the successful Crown appeal calling for a harsher sentence) is now online – NOTTINGHAM v R [2019] NZCA 344 [30 July 2019].

The judgment found that there was strong evidence linking Nottingham with harassing and defamatory posts on the Lauda Finem website – I will cover this in more detail in another post.

Nottingham’s argument in his defence were in part self-defeating. He claimed:

  • Posts on an overseas based blog (Lauda Finem) were not covered by New Zealand law.
  • There was no evidence that he was responsible for the posts.
  • The posts were truthful so could not be deemed to be harassment or breaches of suppression.
  • The five people he was found guilty of harassing “started it” and deserved to be attacked.

The trial jury, the trial judge and the three Court of Appeal judges disagreed with him on all these claims.

His sentence was increased to 31 months in prison, but as he had already served three and a half months home detention this still qualified him for a home detention sentence. While the offences were judged to be serious he was largely spared time in prison due to serious health problems. He was re-sentenced to a further 12 months home detention (including a ban on using the internet), 100 hours commununity service, plus a further six month ban on using the internet after home detention finishes.

He was originally charged in 2015 and went to trial last year after a number of delays.

Following a five-week jury trial before Judge Down, Mr Nottingham was convicted in May 2018 of five charges of criminal harassment and two charges of publishing information in breach of a suppression order. He was subsequently
sentenced by the Judge to 12 months’ home detention and 100 hours of community work. He appeals both his conviction and sentence. The Solicitor-General also appeals the sentence, on the grounds of manifest inadequacy and error in principle.

The suppression charges:

In his summing-up, Judge Down directed that publication of the brothers’ names had occurred in New Zealand in breach of the suppression order. The key issues for the jury were, therefore, whether Mr Nottingham was the publisher or a party to the publication, and whether he had done so knowingly or recklessly in breach of the suppression order

The criminal harassment charges:

In the course of investigating the breaches of name suppression, the police identified a number of LF articles which they considered amounted to criminal harassment. Charges were laid in respect of five complainants, all of whom have been granted permanent name suppression and who we will refer to as T, C, H, B and M. The common denominator between them all was that they had at some stage crossed Mr Nottingham’s path in circumstances he took issue with.

In respect of each complainant, articles appeared on the LF website containing material the Crown alleged was “offensive” in terms of the Harassment Act 1997.

The articles included names, photographs and other personal details indicating extensive background research on each of the targets. It was alleged that some of the photographs had been obtained by Mr Nottingham or by one of his associates at Mr Nottingham’s direction. It was common for Mr Nottingham to ensure that articles were drawn to his complainants’ attention by providing them with the electronic links. The Crown also alleged various other acts of harassment — including “following” and in one case initiating a private prosecution.

At the same time he was being prosecuted for those offences Nottingham and associates continued act in a similar manner, as the many ongoing attack posts on LF show. He also unsuccessfully attempted four other private prosecutions, including one against myself. Two of these went to trial and were dismissed and described as vexatious.

As he attempted several times in my case he applied to adduce new evidence, usually a last minute stunt (the morning of hearings and in two cases during a hearing).

Mr Nottingham filed four affidavits, including one of 333 paragraphs by his brother, P R Nottingham. We assume the premise to be that they represent fresh or relevant new evidence.

We do not regard any of this material as meeting the test for admission in Lundy v R. It is neither fresh, nor (in most cases) relevant.

That sounds very familiar.

The breach of suppression order charges:

Mr Nottingham pursues two arguments:

(a) LF is overseas domiciled and “you cannot be a party to a crime that never occurred in an overseas jurisdiction”.

In his summing-up, the Judge directed that, as a matter of law, publication occurs where material is comprehended and downloaded and that accordingly there was publication in New Zealand irrespective of LF’s domicile. He said that this was a function of “Judge-made” law and that it was also a feature of s 7 of the Crimes Act 1961.

We identify no error in that direction. It did not involve any assumption of extra-territorial jurisdiction. It stated what we regard as a now uncontentious proposition: that a blog available to New Zealand internet users is regarded as published in New Zealand.

They make it clear that using an overseas based website (like WordPress) does not exempt you from New Zealand law if  it is directed at a New Zealand audience.

Physical location of the LF server was, in that context, irrelevant. What was required was proof either of direct publication (that Mr Nottingham was LF), indirect publication (that Mr Nottingham was a co-principal with LF, working directly with it to effect publication in New Zealand) or that he was a party to LF’s publication. That is exactly as the trial Judge put it to the jury, supported by an accurate description of the “party” requirements. Mr Krebs is correct that the question of whether Mr Nottingham “caused” the publication (in any of the legal senses relevant) was a matter of fact for the jury. No error of law was made by the trial Judge.

(b) The Crown failed to establish to the criminal standard that he was either the publisher of the material or a party to its publication.

The Crown advanced a circumstantial case. As Mr Nottingham reminded us, there was no “smoking gun” in the sense of an email attaching a final draft of the articles sent to LF. Nor was there any “electronic footprint” on any of the computers searched by the police which demonstrated that the article, as published, had originated from Mr Nottingham.

…Turning then to the circumstantial evidence relied on by the Crown to establish publication, we agree with Ms Brook that it was very strong, if not overwhelming.

I will cover this more detail in the next post,

We are not therefore satisfied that the verdicts on the breach of suppression charges were unreasonable or that the convictions resulted from a miscarriage of justice.

In Nottingham’s hapless attempt at prosecuting me (and three others) he claimed that we had in some convoluted way enabled people to find their way to suppression breach posts on LF – posts that he has been found guilty of posting.

Conviction appeal — the criminal harassment charges

Again, both the Crown and Mr Krebs submit that the appropriate approach is to treat Mr Nottingham’s appeal as essentially a challenge to the reasonableness of the jury verdicts. We agree, although noting that the main focus of Mr Nottingham’s second set of written submissions (filed on the morning of the appeal hearing), and of his oral submissions, was on the proposition that he ought not to have been convicted because the statements made in the articles (whether by him or not) were true or, alternatively, opinions based in truth.

…Identity (in the sense of responsibility for the acts either as principal or party) was therefore in issue on all charges. Again, Mr Nottingham’s position (both at trial and on appeal) was that there was no evidence of information being communicated from computers under his control to the LF website. And again, the Crown case was (and is) the evidence identifying him as the “driving force” behind the harassment was, if not overwhelming, certainly very strong. We start with that issue, because of its relevance also to the breach of suppression convictions.

We do not consider it necessary to set out all of the circumstantial evidence relied on by the Crown to establish identity in respect of each of the harassment charges. We agree that the jury’s conclusion on the facts was one reasonably available to it. Indeed, we consider it almost inevitable.

In the case of T, Mr Nottingham sent her a link to the first article immediately after it was published and a draft, created two days before publication, was found on a computer to which he had access. In addition, images appearing in the other articles were found on the same computer.

In the case of C, word versions of all three articles were found on a computer to which Mr Nottingham had access together with images from the articles. Likewise, drafts of other unpublished articles were also found.

In the case of B, although no draft of the principal article (published on 24 April 2013) was identified, the draft of another “unpublished” article (prepared approximately a year later) was found, and this contained very similar references to the 2013 publication. For example, the published article interposed the description “belted” between the complainant’s first and last names, and the draft contained the phrase “Beat Me”. The published article described her as “a stupid troll”, the draft as a “dumb cow” and “complete fuckwit”.

In the case of H, a word version of the first article was found on one of the computers, together with photographic images which were included in the articles and a screen shot of H’s Facebook profile. Likewise, screenshots of images in the third article were identified, as was the draft of another unpublished article in a similar vein.

And in respect of M, a word version of the first article was found on a computer to which Mr Nottingham had access together with the image of H which appeared in the same article.

In addition to this specific evidence, there was also a body of general evidence establishing either that Mr Nottingham was LF, a co-principal of LF or was, at a minimum, a party to the publications.

Although much was made of the fact that others had access to the computers at Mr Nottingham’s Hillsborough residence, particularly his brothers Anthony and Phillip, there was ample evidence that Mr Nottingham had overall responsibility and control. For example, there was an email in which Anthony told Mr Nottingham to stop treating him “like one of your fucking employees”.

Funny. While the Nottinghams, and other associatess like Earle McKinney, Marc Spring and Cameron Slater, where all involved in various ways in various campaigns of attack and harassment, they didn’t always get along with each other. very well.

By a wide margin we conclude that on the issue of “identity”, Mr Nottingham fails to satisfy us that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable.

Nottingham has tried to claim or imply it wasn’t him, but if it was it didn’t matter anyway.

Mr Nottingham cast the prosecution as an attack on his unalienable rights of free speech and as having a “chilling effect” on his “legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights”. He said that truth is a complete answer to any allegation that material given to any person or placed on electronic media was offensive within the terms of the Harassment Act.

Except that as is made clear later while posts at LF may have been based on skerricks of truth they were substantially embellished and bolstered by false claims.

The trial judge is quoted:

It has been pointed out already that given the highly inflammatory and abusive language used to impart the truth in some of these Lauda Finem articles, the Crown says that claim of truth is something of a red herring. It is also fair to say that even truthful allegations can be made and repeated in ways that are intended to and do in fact harass.

You might remember [C] in cross-examination saying effectively that these things are not true (was her response) but, even if they were, it does not mean that they can be repeated and presented in this way, in a way that makes me feel harassed and frightened.

The Court of Appeal:

We do not consider the trial Judge to have erred in his approach to this issue. The jury was legitimately entitled to take into account truth or falsity in its assessment of offensiveness, but it was only one part of a composite of considerations relevant in that respect.

Much of what was published could at best be described as virulent opinion with only a tangential connection to anything arguably true. And in respect of many of the comments, we regard even that description as excessively generous.

As the Crown said in closing, the posts were littered with “hate-filled [invective]” and were strongly misogynistic.
T was, for example, described as a “useless fucktard” and “scum of scum of scum and then some scum”. It was said that she wanted an identified person dead and was operating “in a similar fashion to the manner in which the [Nazis] singled out the Jewish community”. In respect of C, her surname was predicated by the sobriquet “cumsac”. And it was said she needed to be “brought to justice before she commits very serious offending such as murder”.

M was described as a “bent ex-cop” with the suggestion he was “on the take” (allegations vehemently denied and never established).

I have seen Nottingham claim many things (in court documents) as truth and evidence that has not been backed up with any actual evidence.

Anyone who has read through posts on LF will recognise this style of attack that bears very little semblance to “truth”.

It was not unreasonable for the jury to identify such material as offensive.

Now the bit where Nottingham claims he was justified in doing what he also tried to claim he didn’t do.

We also note that the “lawful purpose” which Mr Nottingham asserted at trial was his ability to respond to actions by the complainants which he considered to be unlawful or unjust.

(H was alleged to have been complicit in her husband’s operation of a website Mr Nottingham considered to be fraudulent; M was alleged to havemisconducted himself in office in a way which resulted in financial loss to
Mr Nottingham; C had made a police complaint about an associate of Mr Nottingham’s he alleged to be false; T had made accusations he considered baseless and B had assisted H’s husband).

A similar point appears in his written submissions on appeal, where he refers to “the issue as to whether the complainants had contributed to their problems”, albeit in a paragraph which combines submissions in relation to both conviction and sentencing. In oral submissions he further urged on us the fact that “they started it”.

We note the inconsistency of that argument with his underlying proposition that there was inadequate proof he was either the publisher of the LF articles or a party thereto.

However, that aside, the proposition that “they deserved it” was self-evidently not a defence to the charges Mr Nottingham faced.

We are also satisfied that the jury’s verdict was not unreasonable in its implicit acceptance that the intention/knowledge requirements in s 8 of the Harassment Act were proven.

The Crown case was that anyone who discovered they were a target of LF would reasonably fear for, among other things, their mental wellbeing and that this was plainly intended by Mr Nottingham, or at least he knew that it was a likely result.

As previously stated, attacks along similar lines continued on LF at the same time that Nottingham was being prosecuted – and he was protected from public exposure with name suppression.

T’s concerns included to her physical wellbeing. This was because of photographs posted to the site from someone who had clearly been tracking her movements and because the phrase “two head shots to be sure”, had been inserted  between her first and last names in the 29 April 2013 article. Her fears were compounded by the fact that the article was forwarded to her with a link to a scene from the Quentin Tarantino film “Pulp Fiction” which showed a person being shot in the head.

Although Mr Nottingham suggested that this was a reference to T’s treatment of certain people, we agree with the Judge that “it is not unreasonable and should have been foreseeable that those statements would be read as a threat towards [T]”.

I had implied death threats directed at myself on LF and Twitter, but I suspect it more likely to be via associates.

Nottingham submitted that the trial judge:

… did not fairly sum up the competing evidence, effectively casting aside the evidence that established that [the complainants] were not telling the truth, when the prosecution was alleging defamation.

But:

In this case, we regard as compelling the following exchange between the Judge and Mr Nottingham which occurred in chambers immediately after the summing-up:

The Court: All right, now any matters arising?

Mr Nottingham: Sir, may I comment that that was a very fair summing up.

The Court: Thank you. I tried very hard to ensure that it was.

Mr Nottingham: It was.

A number of other complaints were dissected and overruled.

Accordingly, Mr Nottingham’s appeal against conviction is dismissed.

The sentence appeals

The sentence was premised on the following findings of fact which we agree were consistent with the jury’s verdicts:

(a) Mr Nottingham either was LF (in other words the leading mind of that blog) or he was so intimately related to it that it was proper to conclude that he provided information and draft articles to that blog knowing and intending that they would be published.

(b) Publication and other intimidating and harassing conduct was either carried out by Mr Nottingham himself or at his direction and he knew his conduct was likely to cause the individuals involved to fear for their safety or that of family members.

(c) Although Mr Nottingham may, at least initially, have reasonably believed he had legitimate grievances in respect of the complainants, he elected to pursue these, not by lawful and reasonable means, but by personal attacks on an “anything goes” basis.

The trial judge on the harassment charges…

…it went “without saying” that all of the offences were sufficiently serious to justify a starting point of imprisonment.

CoA:

In respect of the breach of non-publication orders, the Judge noted the Crown submission that the maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment be adopted as the start point. The Judge categorised these breaches as blatant and contemptuous and noted Mr Nottingham showed no remorse.

In respect of the combined total starting point of two years and four months’ imprisonment, he then gave a four-month discount to reflect what he described as Mr Nottingham’s “multi-faceted and complex” health problems, which in the Judge’s view meant that a sentence of imprisonment would be much harder for him than for an average middle-aged man in reasonable health. He identified this as the only mitigating factor resulting in a provisional end sentence of two years’ imprisonment. That required that the Judge give consideration to home detention which, consistent with authority, he recognised as having a general and specific deterrence value.

He said he regarded home detention as an appropriate and sufficient response.

The indicated months’ home detention sentence was then apportioned in the way we have previously indicated. Special conditions were imposed including that Mr Nottingham attend counselling or treatment programmes as directed by a probation officer and that he not use any electronic device capable of accessing the internet without prior approval from
a probation officer.

Again Nottingham seems to be speaking on behalf of whoever posted at LF:

Mr Nottingham said that the sentences should be commuted to time served (three and a half months home detention) and without the requirement for community work on the primary ground that the LF articles on which the harassment charges were based were “not designed to make anyone fear for their safety”.

How would he know what the design of the posts was if he wasn’t involved?

By contrast, the Crown submitted the sentence was manifestly inadequate and that nothing less than a custodial sentence is sufficient to capture the level of denunciation and deterrence required for what it says was an egregious breach of non-publication orders and malicious and misogynistic attacks on members of the public.

Ms Brook submitted that manifest inadequacy arises primarily from the wayin which the sentences were structured, and in particular, what she says was an excessive discount for totality. She submitted that the final sentence should have been in the region of three years five months’ imprisonment, made up of cumulative sentences, save that the sentences for the two breaches of the suppression order were properly imposed concurrently with each other and cumulatively on the sentences for criminal harassment.

…Ms Brook therefore submitted that the Judge’s sentence should be quashed and a new sentence imposed in the region of two years and 10 months’ imprisonment.

We accept Ms Brook’s submission that the offending against C and T justified a 12-month starting point for each.
The language used was particularly demeaning and offensive and the fact that a photograph was taken of T without her knowledge and subsequently published must have been calculated to add to her insecurity.

The offending against B, H and M was not as serious, although there were strongly misogynistic elements in the articles about B and H and the implication that M was corrupt was clearly a very damaging one given the nature of his employment.

We consider cumulative sentences of six months (in relation to the offending against B), five months (in relation to the offending against H) and five months (in relation to the offending against M) appropriate.

In respect of the breach of suppression offences, we agree with the Judge that they were sufficiently interconnected and similar in kind to attract concurrent.

Discount for poor health

In respect of the Judge’s four-month discount for ill health, we consider that he was particularly well placed to make the necessary assessment.

We agree with the Judge that Mr Nottingham presented with a complex combination of physical and mental health problems. Several reports identify him as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) attributable to childhood
trauma and although Dr Skipworth says this diagnosis “is controversial in cases of life-long trauma such as Mr Nottingham describes”, nevertheless he accepts it is one way clinicians choose to diagnose and understand “long-term personality dysfunction, interpersonal relational difficulties, cognitive impairment and mood dysregulation in presentations such as Mr Nottingham’s”.

We also note a diagnosis of a traumatic brain injury sustained in a high-speed motorcycle accident in 1996 and a further serious motorcycle accident in 2016 which Dr Walls was concerned had “significantly aggravated the old traumatic brain injury”.

Likewise, Mr Nottingham suffers from a significant number of physical impairments, principal among them recurrent and serious atrial fibrillation. This condition in turn compounds the congestive heart failure from which he also suffers. Multiple hospital admissions have resulted.

Overall, we are not persuaded that the Judge was wrong to make the allowance he did.

There’s not doubt there are serious health issues (and more than what is stated here), and that prison would impose more hardship than normal.

With such a dire health report I wonder that there would be far better and more important things to do than harass people and get bogged down in lengthy court procedures.

Combining the totality and health discounts, we therefore arrive at a sentence of 31 months’ imprisonment which is approximately 30 per cent higher than the Judge’s end point.

In re-sentencing Mr Nottingham we are, however, obliged to take into account the three and a half months of home detention he has already served. Allowing a seven-month discount in this respect again brings Mr Nottingham’s sentence to a level where the Court is obliged to consider home detention. We consider that to be an appropriate sentence, particularly having regard to:

(a) Mr Nottingham’s physical and mental health, which we consider would make the consequences of imprisonment disproportionately severe;

(b) the opportunity to direct participation in rehabilitative programmes, as recognised by the Judge; and

(c) the ability to protect the interests of the complainants and the community by the imposition of restrictive conditions of internet access, again as recognised and directed by the Judge.

I hope the complainants and other victims are adequately protected.

With no sign of acceptance of responsibility nor remorse I have doubts about the prospects of rehabilitative programmes having much impact.

Our approach is therefore to impose concurrent sentences, as follows:

(a) in respect of the offending against C, 12 months’ home detention, concurrent with all other sentences;

(b) in respect of the offending against T, 12 months’ home detention, concurrent with all other sentences;

(c) in respect of the offending against B, eight months’ home detention, concurrent with all other sentences;

(d) in respect of the offending against H, six months’ home detention, concurrent with all other sentences;

(e) in respect of the offending against M, six months’ home detention, concurrent with all other sentences; and

(f) in respect of each breach of suppression, five months’ home detention concurrent with all other sentences.

The existing (part-served) sentence of home detention is quashed.

A new sentence of 12 months’ home detention (with identified concurrent home detention sentences) plus 100 hours’ community work is imposed, subject to the same conditions as imposed by the District Court.

That’s additional to the three and a half months home detention already served.

I’m aware there are some people who claim to have been badly affected by attacks by Nottingham and his cronies think that prison is deserved, but (and I haven’t been as severely affected) I don’t have a problem with the end sentence, despite him continuing with attacks and harassment while facing the charges this sentence applies to.

However if Nottingham offends again he would deserve what Court should then deal him.

I note that Nottingham tried to get a judge to put me “in prison by Christmas” in 2015 – for (allegedly and incorrectly) enabling people to find his posts at LF. But as with his double standards on name suppression – abusing and breaching it for others but claiming it for himself (as did Cameron Slater), what he wanted to inflict on others was something he tried to weasel out of for himself.

Full judgment: NOTTINGHAM v R [2019] NZCA 344 [30 July 2019]

Speeding infringement overturned on appeal

This is an interesting case where a judgment found it proven that a Mr Mercer drove a vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding 100 km/h, but on appeal the infringement notice was dismissed after Mr Mercer argued that when two cars he was passing at a passing lane sped up his safest option was to exceed the speed limit to complete the massing manouvre before the passing lane ran out.

[1] Mr Mercer, who represents himself, appeals a decision of Judge CS Blackie finding proved that he drove a vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding 100 km/h, which was the applicable speed limit. This is an infringement offence.

[2] Mr Mercer did not dispute in the hearing before Judge Blackie that he exceeded the speed limit of 100 km/h. His case was that he had no choice. Mr Mercer said in evidence that a car he was passing increased its speed towards the end of the passing area and he decided the only safe course of action was to exceed the speed limit so as to complete his overtaking manoeuvre safely.

This sort of scenario will be familiar to many people. It is common for slow cars to speed up when they get to passing lanes, and for cars in the slow lane to speed up when being passed.

[7] Mr Mercer’s argument is to the effect that the Judge should have accepted his evidence about his reason for exceeding the speed limit and discharged him accordingly. Mr Mercer, not being a lawyer, advanced his argument on a common sense “it is just not right” basis.

[8] Judge Blackie acknowledged Mr Mercer’s argument, but he did not address it. By his decision the Judge rejected the argument, but he gave no reasons for doing so. That is unfortunate because there is at law a legal exception to the prohibition on exceeding a speed limit which might have applied to Mr Mercer.

[19] Mr Mercer’s relevant evidence-in-chief was:

A. There were two cars in front of me and I was driving along, I was behind them, yeah, obviously, they were mainly about 70 kilometres an hour and both, all of us were in the slow lane so I indicated right, wait for at least three seconds, went straight, I went 100 kilometres an hour and I should have easily overtaken them and then the – it appeared that the front car had accelerated at the last second so I believe I was going to hit that car.

Q. Yes?

A. If I slowed down I could’ve been stuck between those two cars which could’ve caused an accident as well. If I were to slam the brakes my car could’ve spun around into the traffic from the other direction, because of that I had to accelerate to make sure I got through uninjured or, there’s no accident …

[20] In cross-examination Mr Mercer said that when the passing lane was reached “a lot of the other cars took off, I just stayed behind the other two slow ones and then realised that they were going too slow so I just decided to go in the overtaking lane and pass them”

[21] Mr Mercer denied there was plenty of room to allow him to merge with the cars he was overtaking so it was unnecessary for him to complete the overtaking manoeuvre. The cross-examination ended with this exchange:

Q. And what I’m saying to you is that there’s plenty of room there?

A. I had to make a snap decision so I’d rather take the safe option which results in no one dying than, yeah, having an accident.

[32] …Mr Mercer’s evidence was he acted (by exceeding the speed limit) to avoid death or injury. There is no evidence to the contrary. It is not necessary for Mr Mercer to prove his act was objectively necessary to avoid death or injury, just that his act was taken (in that he took it for the purpose) to avoid death or injury.

Result

[33] Judge Blackie erred in not giving reasons as to why Mr Mercer’s explanation did not amount to a defence to the infringement notice. In light of my analysis of the evidence I have concluded that led to a miscarriage of justice.

[34] The appeal is allowed. The infringement notice is dismissed.

So a successful appeal that shows there is a defence against exceeding the speed limit for the purposes of avoiding death or injury.

It doesn’t say whether Mr Mercer had legal advice, but he successfully appealed acting for himself.

The full decision: MERCER v POLICE [2019] NZHC 1957 [13 August 2019]

 

Peter Ellis appeal to be heard by Supreme Court

Peter Ellis was found guilty on 13 charges of abusing children at the Christchurch Civic Creche in 1993. He served seven years of a 10-year prison term, being released in 2000.

There were a number of controversial aspects of the investigation and trial of Ellis, including a range of bizarre allegations, and I think the case is deserving of being re-examined.

In 2015 Justice Minister Amy Adams declined a request from supporters for a commission of inquiry, saying it did not contain new evidence and would not determine guilt – see Peter Ellis considers Privy Council bid

The Supreme Court has now accepted an appeal from Ellis.

Case Name Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis v The Queen
Summary Criminal Appeal – Whether there was a miscarriage of justice arising from risks of contamination of or improperly obtained complainant evidence – Whether there was a miscarriage of justice arising from lack of expert evidence on the reliability of children complainants’ evidence – Whether there was a miscarriage of justice due to unreliable expert evidence being led at trial.
Judgment appealed from – Court of Appeal CA 120/98 14 October 1999

Court of Appeal decision: The Queen v Ellis [1999] NZCA 226; [2000] 1 NZLR 513; (2000) 17 CRNZ 411 (14 October 1999)

Introduction

[1] Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis faced trial in the Christchurch High Court on 28 counts alleging sexual offences against a number of young children attending the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre. The trial commenced on 26 April 1993 and at its conclusion some six weeks later he was convicted on 16 counts. Three were the subject of a discharge by the Judge during trial, and 9 verdicts of acquittal were entered. On 22 September he was sentenced to an effective term of 10 years imprisonment. On appeal to this Court, in a judgment delivered on 8 September 1994 now reported as R v Ellis (1994) 12 CRNZ 172, three of the counts against one complainant were because of her retraction quashed and verdicts of acquittal directed, but the appeal was otherwise dismissed. Following two applications made to the Governor-General, acting pursuant to s406(a) of the Crimes Act 1961 His Excellency referred the question of the 13 convictions to this Court for hearing and determination. The Order in Council is dated 12 May 1999, identifies five broad grounds contained in the applications, and records these as forming the reasons for the reference.

Result

[95] For the reasons stated, we are not persuaded that any individual ground of appeal has been made out. Neither are we persuaded that their cumulative effect constitutes a miscarriage of justice. The appeal is therefore dismissed.

Now from Stuff:  Peter Ellis asks Supreme Court to hear his appeal over Civic Creche convictions

Ellis, now 61, served seven years of a 10-year jail sentence, before being released in February 2000.

The lawyer who represented him at his trial in 1993, Rob Harrison, is once again on the case and says thousands of hours of work had been done looking at the field of child psychology and what impacts on young interview subjects.

“It deserves to be aired and looked at again,” Harrison said.

Developments in research undertaken over the past 25 years gave better information about how children respond and how to get information from them.

“I would have often thought about the case and it’s one of those cases that is always there.

“It needs to be resolved and it’s a shame it has taken us this long.”

Ellis stood trial at the High Court in Christchurch in 1993, and was convicted of 16 charges after a six-week trial. He had been discharged on some charges and acquitted on others.

Three of the convictions were overturned on appeal in 1994 when one of the complainants retracted her allegations.

Following applications to the governor-general to exercise the prerogative of mercy, the case was referred back to the Court of Appeal in 1999, but the remaining 13 convictions stood.

Throughout, the case called into question the techniques used to interview child complainants and the risk that their evidence might have been contaminated.

It was suggested parents and professional interviewers had asked direct and suggestive questions of children, and that the children were spoken to repeatedly about the allegations.

The Supreme Court has a two-step appeal process.

The court first decides if it will hear the appeal, based on whether it is in the interests of justice. The judges consider whether it is a matter of general public importance, and whether a substantial miscarriage of justice has occurred or will occur if the appeal is not heard.

It is only if the court gives permission that an appeal can be heard.

Since Ellis was first convicted the Supreme Court has taken over from the Privy Council in London as New Zealand’s highest court. The Crown had agreed to Ellis taking his case to the Supreme Court rather than seeking a Privy Council appeal.

The Ellis case has prompted more scrutiny than almost any other in New Zealand’s legal history, involving three court hearings, four petitions seeking his pardon, and numerous other campaigns.

A senior Christchurch lawyer who had previously represented Ellis, Nigel Hampton, QC, has continued to take an interest.

“I think it is a festering sore,” he said recently.

Hampton said then he would not want judges appointed to a commission, and favoured allowing reviews to continue even after the subject of them had died.

“Peter Ellis comes to mind. If he were to die. I think [that] is an extraordinary miscarriage of justice.”

“In contrast to most miscarriage cases, where the wrong person is convicted of something, Ellis has been convicted of crimes that never existed. If he were to die, he would still die a convicted man.”

Obviously this is an important case for Ellis, and a test of the way in which child abuse cases are investigated, but it is also a very important test of the New Zealand judicial system, which seems averse to challenging questionable verdicts.

 

 

Nottingham’s conviction and sentence appeals delayed

Dermot Nottingham’s appeal against conviction and sentence, and the Crown appeal against a ‘manifestly inadequate’ sentence, has been moved to 25 June, after the scheduled appeal date last Monday was used for a pre-hearing application for further disclosure.

Recently NZH reported that the Court of Appeal declined an application for non-party disclosure – see ‘Malicious and nasty’ blogger accuses former MP of perjury, asks court to release their emails

The judgment says that Nottingham was on a fishing expedition trying to get phone, email and medical records of victims of criminal harassment, which he was convicted of and sentenced in July last year, and that Nottingham and his defence had had ample opportunity to cross-examine at trial.

We are neither satisfied that those persons are likely to hold the information Mr Nottingham seeks nor, even if we thought that was likely, that all or part of it appears to be relevant. The open-ended and speculative nature of the reasons on which Mr Nottingham based his application reflect the almost inevitability of that conclusion. The application is, in reality, a fishing expedition and, being made in the context of an appeal, has even less justification than might have been the case if it was made pre-trial.

This sort of speculative fishing for evidence in court to support accusations made by Nottingham is a common tactic of Nottingham – his failure to support accusations with evidence has been a recurring problem in his private prosecutions and appeals. This is why he has failed in court so often. He also tried to avoid bankruptcy by submitting claims of debt from family and associates that had no proof of debt supplied.

The recent judgment also details an application by Nottingham for further Crown disclosure. The Court determined that this had to be decided at a hearing, so the scheduled appeals hearing last Monday was changed to deal with the disclosure application, and;

…the Crown and Mr Nottingham’s appeals against sentence and conviction and sentence respectively will be heard on 25 June 2019.

That runs close to the end of Nottingham’s 12 month home detention sentence, but his six months’ post-detention term runs beyond that.

The judgment also gives details of the criminal harassment that Nottingham was convicted of.

(a) A1, separated from her partner A2 and made a complaint to police of assault against him. Mr Nottingham was an associate of A2 and began, in his capacity as an advocate, to work on his behalf. This resulted in an extended course of conduct towards A2 characterised as criminal harassment.

(b) Between 2011 and 2013 the defendant adopted a course of conduct towards B characterised as criminal harassment.

(c) Between 2011 and 2015, the defendant embarked on a course of conduct which has been characterised as harassing C.

(d) Between November 2011 and February 2015, Mr Nottingham embarked on a course of conduct amounting to criminal harassment of D.

(e) Between November 2011 and June 2014, the defendant embarked on a course of conduct amounting to criminal harassment of E.

So the harassment was over extended periods of up to more than three years. From sentencing notes:

It was clear to me that, for some of the complainants, life over an extended period of time had been made very uncomfortable and distressing, in some cases affecting the daily lives of some complainants whose reputations in their community had been so badly maligned as to cause them to withdraw within themselves.

These were just deemed to be the worst examples.

During that five year period the defendant undertook numerous campaigns of harassment against a number of individuals, the most egregious and persistent of which were represented by the five complainants in the trial.

There are many people who have been targeted by Nottingham and associates, which includes Earle McKinney, Marc Spring and Cameron Slater. Given what Matthew Blomfield was subjected to he dispute “the most egregious and persistent of which were represented by the five complainants in the trial”.

And I know there are others who feel they had valid claims of harassment as well.

To a lesser but still substantial extent Nottingham and his associates also attacked, abused, threatened and harassed me via email, Twitter, that infamous website, and via the courts for three and a half years. I’m not sure if it is over yet, because Nottingham has a record of attempting out of time appeals.

However Nottingham is now quite restricted in what court action he can take, as any legal action is subject to approval of the Official Assignee. He was adjudicated a bankrupt in September 2018, which normally lasts for three years. However, despite being required by law to provide a Statement of Affairs within two weeks that has still not been done, and the three years doesn’t commence until the Statement has been provided.

This will give some respite for the many people who have been hassled and harassed by Nottingham. The same applies to Slater, who periodically claims to be the victim of what he calls ‘lawfare’ – something he has been very much associated with doing himself. Also a bankrupt, Slater (since February this year) is also now under the jurisdiction of the Official Assignee.

The current 12 month home detention sentence began on 26 July 2018. It includes the following restrictions:

[61] Mr Nottinghan, the jury having found you guilty on all seven counts, you are convicted on each of those counts and sentenced as follows. The conditions are as follows:

(b) You are not to associate with or contact any victim or witness of your offending without prior written approval of a probation officer, except in relation to C. You may correspond with her solicitors in relation to current proceedings.

(c) You are not to possess or use any electronic device capable ofaccessing the Internet for capturing, storing, accessing or distributing images (including without limitation any personal computers, notebooks, tablets or cellphones) without prior written approval from a probation
officer.

[62] You will also be subject to six months’ post-detention conditions which will mirror the conditions that I have just imposed.

There will be a number of people interested in the outcome of Nottingham’s appeal, and also the Crown appeal.

And whether he has been rehabilitated. There is little sign of that yet. Sentencing notes:

Mr Nottingham does not qualify for any consideration of reduction of sentence for guilty pleas, or indeed for
remorse. He has doggedly defended the allegations and required the complainants to give evidence. Although this does not add to the sentence I impose, it highlights why Mr Nottingham is not entitled to any discount for remorse or acceptance. Indeed, I recall that one of the complainants stated quite clearly that she considered her being required to give evidence in this proceeding was a continuation of the harassment towards her.

The recent judgment noted that a hearing for an application for phone, email and medical records from victims would have further impacted on them.

[24] That A and D, as the jury’s verdicts establish, victims of Mr Nottingham’s criminal harassment, is a further reason not to put them through the invasive process that a hearing of this application would occasion.

Sentencing notes:

[53] In his written submissions, Mr Nottingham makes it plain that he disagrees with the findings of the jmy and challenges many of the rulings of the Court. As is characteristic of his approach to legal proceedings, I anticipate that Mr Nottingham will pursue all avenues of review and appeal and is unlikely ever to accept that what he did was not only unlawful, but reprehensible.

NZH:

Brian Dickey, Auckland’s crown solicitor, said Nottingham’s harassment was at the high end of the criminal spectrum, calling it “so malicious, so nasty”.

“He shows absolutely no insight into his offending, no remorse,” he said at the blogger’s sentencing.

That doesn’t appear to have changed.

I haven’t seen any sign of remorse from Nottingham’s associates either. One was recently still trying to blame me for standing up to them and reacting to their harassment.

Nottingham’s apparent ongoing lack of remorse may or may not be a factor in next month’s appeal, but it must be a concern for the many victims of his attacks and harassment.

Court of Appeal, 25 June 2019 is the next date of significance, unless Nottingham tries more of his delaying stunts.

Nottingham’s claims of perjury and court record

Dermot Nottingham has an extensive record of litigation, most of it unsuccessful. When he doesn’t get the judgments he wants he often blames others – sometimes the judges, and this has got him into trouble with courts. He also has a habit of blaming the victims of his legal misadventures, and also the victims of his harassment.

And this is what has happened after he was convicted of five counts of criminal harassment last July – he claims the victims of his harassment committed perjury.

NZ Herald: ‘Malicious and nasty’ blogger accuses former MP of perjury, asks court to release their emails

While ‘malicious and nasty’ may sound harsh from my experience with Nottingham it is an appropriate description. I think he could justifiably be called worse things than that.

A “malicious and nasty” blogger, who was convicted of criminal harassment and breaching court orders, has now accused a former parliamentarian of perjury.

Dermot Gregory Nottingham was found guilty of five criminal harassment charges and two breaches of court suppression orders following a lengthy trial, in which he represented himself, during April and May last year.

Nottingham was targeting business people, civil servants and a former member of Parliament.

He had taken and published photos of them, their homes and was making false claims of drug abuse and corruption.

One of the five victims, all of whom have permanent name suppression, said they had been stalked and photographed, with their images appearing on the blog page.

Now, however, Nottingham wants the cellphone records, emails and medical notes of three of his victims.

He claims they are guilty of perjury, having testified at his trial.

In an application for a non-party disclosure hearing, Nottingham asked the Court of Appeal for the emails sent and received by the then-MP about himself.

He also sought the cellphone records for the past six months from a second victim and the medical records of a third.

Nottingham claimed this would prove they lied at his trial.

However, in its decision sent to the Herald yesterday evening, the Court of Appeal refused Nottingham’s application.

The three judges said the application is “in reality, a fishing expedition”.

Accusations of lying and fishing expeditions sound familiar. When launching private prosecutions against myself, APN, Allied press and Prentice he didn’t have evidence, just accusations that he hoped to prove in court (not the way prosecutions are supposed to work).

The first and only time I met Nottingham face to face, outside the Dunedin court in October 2015, he falsely accused me of lying in front of my lawyer. Later viaa email he threatened to report my lawyer to the Law Society for falsely alleged ‘serious misconduct’. He also said:

In due course I will be examining certain persons that I have been reliably informed are anonymous posters on your clients hate blog.   As part of that process I will be seeking their email and others records. 

I will also obtain your clients telephone and text records, and his emails.
 
This procedure will clarify whose criminal agenda he [and they] are pushing.

His ‘reliable’ informants were as bad as him at making things up.

This is a similar tactic he has just used with the Court of Appeal. It indicates he didn’t have evidence he claimed he had when applying to a judge to file charges. He made up accusations and conspiracies  – he claimed that the police, court officials and media had conspired against him, but never produced any evidence.

After eleven months the charges against APN and Prentice were dismissed at trial, and a week later Nottingham withdrew the charges against Allied Press and myself. The costs judgment NOTTINGHAM v APN NEWS & MEDIA LTD [2018] NZHC 1004 [9 May 2018] gives some indication of how the prosecutions were conducted:

[13] Mr Nottingham had brought a private prosecution against APN and Mr Prentice alleging that they had breached confidentiality orders in contravention of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011.

[14] Judge Collins dismissed the case against APN because Mr Nottingham did not have the right defendant..

[16] Judge Collins also held that Mr Nottingham’s evidence at trial fell well short of proving that Mr Prentice was the author or guiding hand behind the website alleged to have made the offending publication. He ruled that Mr Prentice had no case to answer.

[17] Before me, Mr Nottingham did not attempt to explain how, on any appeal, he could remedy this evidential lacuna. Rather, he sought to argue:

(a) that he, as prosecutor, should not have been required to bring the best available evidence to the Court;

(b) he should not have been required to prove every element of the charges; and

(c) that counsel for the defendants had an obligation to advise him if there was an error in his charging documents.

[18] These assertions demonstrate Mr Nottingham’s fundamental misunderstanding of the criminal justice system. They are untenable propositions, and it was frivolous and vexatious to attempt to advance them.

[24] Importantly, for present purposes, the affidavit was in any event inadmissible. As I noted in my judgment, it was replete with irrelevant material, opinion evidence and pontification by a Mr McKinney, who appeared as Mr Nottingham’s McKenzie friend, as to what he – Mr McKinney – thought the law is, or perhaps more precisely, should be. The affidavit contained a number of pejorative comments about Judge Collins and how he ran the trial. It also contained pejorative comments about other persons, in particular…Mr Prentice’s solicitor.

Conclusion

[26] The respondents were put to unnecessary expense, by Mr Nottingham’s multiple procedural failings, and by his obduracy in persisting with this matter, when it was or should have been clear from the outset that the proposed appeal was devoid of any substantive merit.

This is typical of a number of judgments against Nottingham.

The website nzlii.org lists 49 legal documents involving Nottingham going from last year back to 1989. Thirty five of them have been since 2015, an average of nine per year – and these are by no means all. They don’t include any from the District Court, where many of the proceedings began, and they don’t include judgments still covered by suppression.

In my case (alongside Allied Press) none of the proceedings documents are online. Over three years there were nine District Court appearances up until the charges were withdrawn. And following that there were two costs judgments in the District Court, two in the High Court (appeals) and one in the Court of Appeal. Nottingham must have been to court over a hundred times over four years.

Lying and perjury are common accusations.

From Nottingham v Real Estate Agents Authority [2015] NZHC 1616 (10 July 2015)

[29] The appeal is on the grounds:

That the Tribunal acted corruptly, dishonestly, and immorally…

1.1 Misreporting or not reporting evidence that proved that [the defendant] was guilty of the alleged offending;

2.1 Misreporting or not reporting evidence that proved that the CAC had acted corruptly;

14.1 Relying on the impossible explanations of [defendants] when the evidence that was before them proved those explanations as clear and relevant perjury;

[153] I also note that the Tribunal described itself as being concerned and disturbed that the Messrs Nottingham “generated an atmosphere of intimidation in our courtroom”.

[154] Given the nature of some of the appellants’ allegations against the Committee,the Tribunal had to ensure that the hearing was conducted in a structured and measured fashion and that the more extreme allegations did not detract from the real issues.

[155] I am satisfied that the exchanges of concern to the appellants amount to no more than the Tribunal doing its best to manage proceedings and to deal with issues sensibly and reasonably while being fair to all parties.

From Nottingham v Auckland District Court [2017] NZHC 777 (27 April 2017):

[8] Mr Nottingham commenced the present proceeding on 12 September 2016. The proceeding is styled as an application for judicial review. However, it alleges a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and seeks relief that cannot possibly be given in the context of an application for judicial review.

[9] In particular, Mr Nottingham alleges that Judge Paul and Judge Collins (who made procedural directions and rulings in the criminal case) conspired with District Court staff, the second defendants, the second defendants’ counsel and unnamed others, including members of the judiciary, the executive and the legislature, to “defeat, prevent, pervert, interfere, and obstruct justice in order to wrongfully acquit the second defendants” and to award costs in favour of the second defendants.

[10] The asserted “overt criminal actions” are baldly stated in 43 subparagraphs. These comprise outrageous and scandalous conclusory allegations which are wholly unsupported by any factual particulars. This can be illustrated by reciting the first ten alleged overt criminal actions on the list: “committing perjury”; “suborning perjury”; “promoting perjury”; “maladministering judicial office by protecting perjurers”; “maladministering judicial office by ignoring perjury”; “maladministering judicial office by encouraging perjury”; “making formal and informal applications that were based on, and supported by perjury, which perjury also contained false accusation against the plaintiff, [and others, involved]”; “maladministering judicial office by encouraging, and/or ignoring such applications, as cited immediately above”; “making [knowingly] false written, and/or oral, submissions, and/or rulings, as to facts, and law, in order to defeat, prevent, pervert, interfere, and obstruct justice”; and “ordering and/or carrying out the destruction of evidence”.

[11] No one is entitled to make allegations of serious misconduct, such as fraud or bad faith, let alone the extremely serious allegations of criminal conspiracy, corruption and dishonesty that have been advanced in this case, without being in possession of sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case to prove it. Detailed particulars of the specific facts relied on must be pleaded to support the allegation. The statement of claim filed in this case fails miserably when judged against that standard.

Three months later Nottingham was granted leave to file charges against myself and three others after making conspiracy allegations that for which no cogent evidence was ever presented.

[14] The hopelessness of the present claim becomes even clearer when one examines the relief sought, almost all of which could not possibly be entertained in the context of an application for judicial review. The relief sought includes:

(a) an order setting aside the judgment of the District Court acquitting the second defendants and replacing it with a judgment of this Court entering convictions against the second defendants on all charges brought against them by the plaintiff, including convictions on charges that were not accepted for filing or heard;

(b) an order setting aside the judgment awarding costs to the second defendants and replacing it with an award of indemnity costs against the second defendants and their counsel in favour of the plaintiff;

(c) an order holding the second defendants and their counsel “in contempt for perjury, suborning perjury and conspiring to falsely accuse, and conspiring to defeat the course of justice”;

(d) a declaration that the perjury committed by the second defendants and suborned by their counsel was of a most serious nature and that the police should be notified of the specificity and impact of that perjury;

(e) an order directing that the behaviour of the defendants’ counsel be reported to police and the Law Society;

(f) a declaration that the District Court judges have criminally mis-conducted themselves in public office and should be subject to removal procedures as a result;

(g) a declaration that the judges should be investigated for contempt of court;

(h) an order giving access to the plaintiff of all communications between judges and staff and the second defendants, any anyone else [who] communicated with the District Court and the judges;

(i) a substantial award of damages in favour of the plaintiff against the judges and unnamed District Court staff; and

(j) an order stopping the defendants from harassing the plaintiff and his family.

[16] I have no doubt that Mr Nottingham’s claim must be struck out. It is replete with scandalous and outrageous allegations without any attempt having been made to provide supporting factual particulars. Further, almost all of the relief sought could not be granted in the context of an application for judicial review. I am satisfied that these flaws in the claim are of such a fundamental character that they could not be saved by amendment.

That last relief sought (i) is ironic given that Nottingham was the one who was later found guilty of multiple charges of criminal harassment, but he had a habit of accusing others of doing what he did. I was accused of harassing him and his family and associates when they were clearly the ones doing the harassing.

Those here who witnessed the extensive attacks on myself, commenters and Your NZ in late 2015 will attest to who was harassing who.

From Maltese Cat Limited v Doe [2017] NZHC 1634 (14 July 2017):

[26] Mr Nottingham seeks to obtain a declaration that there exists a strong prima facie case to lay criminal charges against those involved in these proceedings where false allegations and fraud have been committed (in the Family Court proceedings). This is opposed on the grounds that it is not an interlocutory application. I agree. False allegations in the Family Court let alone fraud are not an issue in these proceedings.

[27] This is a statement of an intention to prove perjury by the plaintiffs and others under cross-examination etc. This is not an interlocutory application, contemplated in a Part 18 High Court Rules hearing.

[28] This application intends to prove that others have sought to promote, assist, and fund the litigation in order to subvert the due process. Similarly this is an abuse of a Part 18 hearing.

Nottingham made similar (false) accusations against me.

[37] This is an application to have the Court hold the deponents for the plaintiffs in contempt for perjury and conspiring by order to obtain a fraudulent means.

[39] This is an application by Mr Nottingham for search orders of the providers of the emails and phone services to the plaintiffs, to prove a collateral purpose. There is no basis for such an order.

Similar to what he has just tried with the Court of Appeal.

[45] This litigation is in a form far removed from that contemplated when the Court was asked and agreed that the proceedings should continue as an application under Part 18 of the High Court Rules. It is not possible in interlocutory proceedings to resolve all issues of admissibility of the hundreds of pages of “evidence” Mr Nottingham intends to rely on.

[46] I am also concerned that Mr Nottingham apparently does not intend to give evidence himself when there is a live suspicion that he is the person who is the source of the defamatory material on the internet.

Subsequent to this Nottingham was found guilty of posting such material on his website, and he admitted he was the author, but claimed he was immune from New Zealand law, and (NZH): He had tried to argue at trial that his “articles” were covered by freedom of expression rights.

From Nottingham v District Court at Auckland [2018] NZCA 345 (3 September 2018):

Background

[2] In 2014 Mr Nottingham commenced a private prosecution against the respondents, Mr Martin Honey, Mrs Stephanie Honey and Mr Hemi Taka. The charges arose out of claims by Mr Nottingham that the respondents had operated a fraudulent real estate website. There was also a charge of perjury. After a 17day judge-alone trial, Judge Paul dismissed the charges on the basis that there was no case to answer.[3] He acquitted the respondents and made an order that Mr Nottingham pay them costs totalling $117,000 under the Costs in Criminal Cases Act 1967.

So a private prosecution alleging perjury was dismissed. Costs awarded against Nottingham in this lengthy proceeding and others, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, led to him being declared bankrupt in September 2018 – see HONEY v NOTTINGHAM [2018] NZHC 2382 [11 September 2018].

I am not aware of any of Nottingham’s allegations of perjury or conspiracy being proven. He has been unsuccessful in almost all of this long litany of legal failures.

Talking of lying and perjury, in his failed attempt to prosecute me, in court documents Nottingham denied responsibility for posts on the now shut down laudafinem.com website.  From Notes of Judge J C Down on Sentencing 26 July 2018 (not online):

[22] Now, I make some findings of fact. Consistent with the verdicts of the jury I have concluded that between 2010 and 2015 Dermot Nottingham published or had published numerous articles on the blog site laudafinem.com. Either Dermot Nottingham is Lauda Finem (in other words, the leading mind of that blog) or
he is so intimately related to it that it is proper to conclude that he provided information and draft articles to that blog site knowing and intending that they would be published.

[23] During that five year period the defendant undertook numerous campaigns of harassment against a number of individuals, the most egregious and persistent of which were represented by the five complainants in the trial.

There were many others, including against myself and commenters here. I think that it is debatable that the worst were represented by those Nottingham was convicted of harassing. I have been contacted by a number of victims, who have gone as far as claiming Nottingham has ruined their lives.

[41] In relation to the breach of non-publication orders, Mr· Nottingham states as follows at paragraph 40 of his submissions:

It would seem odd that a severe sentence would be imposed on a party to supplying information to an overseas website on two killers that received no punishment, inclusive of no convictions, and name suppression, as to their identities.

[42] Not only does such a statement reinforce the contempt with which Mr Nottingham holds the decisions of the Court and the non-publication orders, but establishes beyond doubt that Mr Nottingham harbours no sense of remorse in relation to any of this offending.

So he now doesn’t deny providing posts to the infamous blog, despite denials of involvement (lying or at least misleading) in other court proceedings.

Nottingham is appealing his conviction and sentence. The Crown is also appealing his sentence.

Court of Appeal daily list for Monday 20 May:

2:15pm
CA472/2018 & CA492/2018 (to be heard together)
CA472/2018 Dermot Gregory NOTTINGHAM (In Person) v The Queen
CA492/2018 The Queen v Dermot Gregory NOTTINGHAM (In Person)

Nottingham refused fishing expedition by Court of Appeal

Dermot Nottingham’s appeal against his conviction and sentence is on the Court of Appeal fixture list for next Monday. He has already been to the court trying to get cellphone records, emails and medical notes of three of his criminal harassment victims, claiming they lied at his trial, but the court refused that, calling it a fishing expedition.

NZ Herald: ‘Malicious and nasty’ blogger accuses former MP of perjury, asks court to release their emails

A “malicious and nasty” blogger, who was convicted of criminal harassment and breaching court orders, has now accused a former parliamentarian of perjury.

Dermot Gregory Nottingham was found guilty of five criminal harassment charges and two breaches of court suppression orders following a lengthy trial, in which he represented himself, during April and May last year.

He was then sentenced to 12 months’ home detention and 100 hours’ community work for what Judge Jonathan Down described as a blatant and contemptuous breach of court orders and an arrogant view of right and wrong.

Nottingham was targeting business people, civil servants and a former member of Parliament.

He had taken and published photos of them, their homes and was making false claims of drug abuse and corruption.

One of the five victims, all of whom have permanent name suppression, said they had been stalked and photographed, with their images appearing on the blog page.

The sentencing judge said they were the five worst cases of harassment, but that’s debatable. There were many victims of attacks from Nottingham and associates – including myself and others participating here at Your NZ.

Now, however, Nottingham wants the cellphone records, emails and medical notes of three of his victims.

He claims they are guilty of perjury, having testified at his trial.

This isn’t the first time he has made claims like that when court judgments haven’t gone his way (he has been a frequent visitor to courts over the past ten years, unsuccessfully most of the time).

In an application for a non-party disclosure hearing, Nottingham asked the Court of Appeal for the emails sent and received by the then-MP about himself.

Nottingham claimed this would prove they lied at his trial.

He also sought the cellphone records for the past six months from a second victim and the medical records of a third.

He has made a number of accusations in the past without having evidence, including in his failed prosecution of me.

But as in the past the Court of Appeal ruled against him.

“We are neither satisfied that those persons are likely to hold the information Mr Nottingham seeks nor, even if we thought that was likely, that all or part of it appears to be relevant,” Justices Stephen Kos, Brendan Brown and Denis Clifford ruled.

“The open-ended and speculative nature of the reasons on which Mr Nottingham based his application reflect the almost inevitability of that conclusion.”

The three judges said the application is “in reality, a fishing expedition”.

“Moreover, and most importantly, each of [the victims] gave evidence at Mr Nottingham’s trial and were cross-examined at considerable length.

“That cross-examination was an opportunity to test their evidence, both as to its credibility and its reliability.”

The Court of Appeal judges said because those being asked to divulge personal information were victims of Nottingham’s criminal harassment, it was further reason not to put them through the invasive process that a hearing would occasion.

Court of appeal judges referring to “victims of Nottingham’s criminal harassment” suggests it will be challenging for Nottingham to get the convictions overturned.

Nottingham, meanwhile, also appealed both his convictions and his sentence.

He had tried to argue at trial that his “articles” were covered by freedom of expression rights.

He has admitted writing “articles” on ‘that blog’ which will be nameless here, and I think that many who have read articles there, especially about themselves, will suggest Nottingham abused freedom of expression rights.

The prosecution against him, he claims, was a “false case” and the police had created evidence to “fit him up”.

That sounds like what he tried to do with me and others. Court costs awarded against him in those failed cases led to him being declared bankrupt last September.

Brian Dickey, Auckland’s crown solicitor, said Nottingham’s harassment was at the high end of the criminal spectrum, calling it “so malicious, so nasty”.

“He shows absolutely no insight into his offending, no remorse,” he said at the blogger’s sentencing.

The Crown had asked for a prison sentence after Nottingham’s conviction and is appealing the sentence. That will be heard at the same time as Nottingham’s appeals.

See Dermot Nottingham sentenced for criminal harassment, suppression breaches

Another Nottingham court failure highlights failures of courts

Dermot Nottingham keeps clocking up failures in courts. The latest is in the Supreme Court, which dismissed an extension of time to appeal a prior appeal.

There is some history going back over four years (with related proceedings that go back to events in 2009). The judgment being appealed: NOTTINGHAM v DISTRICT COURT AT AUCKLAND [2018] NZCA 75 [28 March 2018]:

[1] On 27 April 2017 Gilbert J granted the second respondents’ application to strike out Mr Nottingham’s statement of claim in a judicial review of the District Court at Auckland alleging a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The Judge ruled that the claim was replete with scandalous and outrageous allegations without any attempt having been made to provide supporting factual particulars, almost all of the relief sought could not be granted in the context of an application for judicial review and that the flaws in the claim were of such a fundamental character that they could not be saved by amendment.

[2] Mr Nottingham did not file a notice of appeal of that judgment within the required time…

Background

[3] In March 2014 Mr Nottingham commenced a private prosecution in the Auckland District Court against the second respondents. Following a Judge alone trial extending over 17 sitting days, on 20 June 2016 Judge Paul dismissed all charges, acquitted the second respondents and made an order that the appellant pay costs totalling $117,000. Mr Nottingham’s application for leave to appeal pursuant to s 296 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 was declined by Davison J.

[4] The prequel to the criminal proceedings were complaints by both Mr Nottingham and Mr Honey to the Real Estate Agents Authority which culminated in a decision of the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal,
an appeal to the High Court and a further appeal to this Court.

The prequel goes back a long time – to 2009.

[5] On 12 September 2016 Mr Nottingham commenced this judicial review proceeding alleging that Judge Paul had conspired with court staff and with the second respondents to defeat the course of justice in order to wrongfully acquit the second respondents of the criminal charges Mr Nottingham had brought against them in the private prosecution.

[8] In the present case the delay of six months is substantial. While the notice of application states there are reasonable grounds including medical reasons for the delay, there is nothing in the extensive materials filed in support of the application that provides any detail of such a reason.

[9] Indeed it is difficult to understand how it could credibly be said that Mr Nottingham was precluded on medical grounds from lodging a simple notice of appeal within the 20 working day period provided in the Court of Appeal (Civil) Rules when he was actively involved in other litigation. On 15, 22 and 23 May 2017 he appeared in the High Court at Auckland in support of the application for leave to appeal heard by Davison J. He also appeared in the High Court on 12 June 2017 in support of an appeal from the District Court at Auckland finding him in contempt of Court for wilfully insulting a judicial officer.

[10] In Almond v Read the Supreme Court stated that a decision to refuse an extension of time based substantially on the lack of merit of a proposed appeal should be made only where the appeal is clearly hopeless. One of the examples given of a hopeless appeal was where there was an abuse of process such as a collateral attack on issues finally determined in other proceedings. We consider that Mr Nottingham’s judicial review proceeding is an example of such a collateral attack.

[11] Mr Nottingham’s private prosecution was dismissed. An application for leave to appeal was declined. An application under s 303 to this Court is still extant. In those circumstances we consider the nature of Mr Nottingham’s judicial review proceeding offends the general rule of public policy explained in Hunter.

[12] The implications of this collateral attack by a still further litigation process has obvious relevance to the third and fourth of the Almond v Read considerations.

[13] Having regard to all of these factors we conclude that the interests of justice plainly require that we should decline to exercise the discretion to extend time under r 29A for the filing of an appeal against the judgment of Gilbert J.

Result

[14] The application for an extension of time to appeal is declined. The appellant must pay the second respondents costs for a standard application on a band A basis with usual disbursements.

The latest judgment from the Supreme Court dated 20 November 2018 – Nottingham v Auckland District Court and Honey, Honey and Taka.

[1] Mr Nottingham wanted to appeal to the Court of Appeal against a decision of the High Court. He did not file his notice of appeal within time so applied for an extension of time. The Court of Appeal declined to grant an extension of time. Mr Nottingham seeks leave to appeal out of time to this Court against that decision.

[4] The principles applicable to the Court of Appeal’s decision whether or not to grant an extension of time were set out recently by the Court in Almond v Read. Mr Nottingham does not challenge those principles; rather, he seeks to challenge their application by the Court of Appeal to the particular facts of this case. No point of general or public importance accordingly arises. Nor does anything raised by Mr Nottingham give rise to the appearance of a miscarriage of justice. We add that his delay in filing in this Court is unexplained.

[5] For these reasons the application for an extension of time to appeal is dismissed. The applicant is to pay costs of $2,500 to the second respondents.

So a simple judgment, but again using court time and imposing further time and costs on the respondents after an extensive amount of litigation over nearly a decade.

In 2015 Nottingham told me that if ongoing litigation took him ten years he was up for it.

This judgment follows a similar judgment and a similar award of costs earlier this month: DERMOT GREGORY NOTTINGHAM v HEMI TAKA, MARTIN RUSSELL HONEY AND STEPHANIE FRANCIS HONEY [2018] NZSC 102 [5 November 2018]

Costs are supposed to be a deterrent to frivolous, vexatious and hopeless litigation, but they don’t deter Nottingham, who has clocked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs awarded against him which led to him being adjudicated bankrupt in September – see HONEY v NOTTINGHAM [2018] NZHC 2382 [11 September 2018].  I was involved in that proceeding and am owed court awarded costs by Nottingham for another failed private prosecution.

I met with the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group on Monday to have my say, making suggestions on what I want from the criminal justice system and and how we might make it better. This focused on much of what is again highlighted in this judgment – successive courts have allowed Nottingham to proceed through multiple stages of litigation, incessantly  breaching laws, court rules and timetables, and not paying costs that are supposed to deter these sorts of abuse of the judicial system.

The Advisory group will make recommendations to the Minister of Justice next year, and then it is over to the Minister, Cabinet and Parliament as to what they change.

As per what is highlighted above, requiring judges to enforce procedural legislation and timetables could make a significant difference in limiting vexatious and hopeless litigation.

 

 

 

Nottingham fails in Supreme Court appeal

Another fail for Dermot Nottingham, this time the Supreme Court declining leave to appeal. This is entirely predictable, as he was seeking leave to appeal a Court of Appeal decision that said they had no jurisdiction to overturn the High Court declining leave to appeal. More wasting of court time.

Costs of $2500 were awarded against Nottingham, but as he has been insolvent for some time (probably years) and was adjudicated bankrupt in September he is unlikely to be able to pay these, on top of the quarter of a million dollars in various court costs he already owes.

Costs are supposed to be a deterrent to vexatious and hopeless litigation but Nottingham continues to file proceedings regardless. I don’t know if he is ignorant of the judicial processes (he shouldn’t be, he has extensive experience with it) or if it is deliberate abuses of processes as part of campaigns of harassment against various people.

From the Supreme Court judgment DERMOT GREGORY NOTTINGHAM v HEMI TAKA, MARTIN RUSSELL HONEY AND STEPHANIE FRANCIS HONEY [2018] NZSC 102 [5 November 2018]

[1] The applicant seeks leave to appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal in which he was refused leave to appeal against two High Court decisions. Both had their origins in a private prosecution brought by the applicant against the three respondents in the District Court. All charges were dismissed by Judge Paul and he ordered the applicant to pay costs totalling $117,000 under the Costs in Criminal Cases Act 1967.

[2] The applicant sought leave to appeal against Judge Paul’s decision dismissing the charges and the award of costs.

[3] In the first of the High Court decisions, Paul Davison J refused leave to appeal and, in doing so, he addressed directly the costs argument.

[6] In dealing with the challenge to the judgment of Downs J, the Court concluded that there is no right of appeal to the Court of Appeal from such a decision, citing a number of cases decided under similar provisions of the Summary Proceedings Act 1957. In absence of a right of appeal, the Court found it had no jurisdiction to hear a challenge to the judgment of Downs J.

So the court (Court of Appeal) has no jurisdiction to overturn a lower a court (High Court) decision declining leave to appeal a lower court (District Court).

[7] In support of his application for leave to appeal to this Court, in respect of the judgment of Paul Davison J, the applicant repeats the submissions advanced to and rejected by the Court of Appeal.

[8] Although the judgment of Paul Davison J is lengthy, it is perfectly clear that he dealt with the case as an application for leave to appeal under s 296 and not as a substantive appeal. The order he made was to dismiss the application for leave to appeal. For the reasons given by the Court of Appeal, that decision was final. It was not susceptible to challenge in the Court of Appeal.

[9] We are likewise of the view that there was no jurisdiction to challenge in the Court of Appeal the decision by Downs J to refuse an extension of time.

[10] This Court relevantly has jurisdiction to deal only with appeals authorised by Part 6 of the Criminal Procedure Act. The proposed appeal is not within any head of jurisdiction provided under that Act. As to this, we note that s 213 to which we have already referred provides that an appeal court’s decision to give or refuse leave is final unless otherwise expressly provided for. This provision is as applicable to the Supreme Court as it is to the Court of Appeal and makes it clear that we do not have jurisdiction to entertain appeals against decisions of the Court of Appeal to refuse leave.

[11] The application for leave to appeal is dismissed. The applicant is to pay the respondents costs of $2,500.

So that should be the end of the legal line for Nottingham in this lengthy litigation.

Here is the Court of Appeal decision: NOTTINGHAM v DISTRICT COURT AT AUCKLAND [2018] NZCA 75 [28 March 2018]

[3] In March 2014 Mr Nottingham commenced a private prosecution in the Auckland District Court against the second respondents. Following a Judge alone trial extending over 17 sitting days, on 20 June 2016 Judge Paul dismissed all charges, acquitted the second respondents and made an order that the appellant pay costs totalling $117,000. Mr Nottingham’s application for leave to appeal pursuant to s 296 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 was declined by Davison J.

[4] The prequel to the criminal proceedings were complaints by both Mr Nottingham and Mr Honey to the Real Estate Agents Authority which culminated in a decision of the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal, an appeal to the High Court and a further appeal to this Court.

So this relates to a failed prosecution that began over four and a half years ago.

And that relates to even longer running litigation – it started with a business deal in 2009 that led to:

[4] In early 2011, Mr Dermot Nottingham lodged a complaint on behalf of PBRL with the Real Estate Agents Authority (the REAA) alleging misconduct by Mr Honey…

This is just one of a number of lengthy proceedings Nottingham has been involved in, including other failed private prosecutions, against myself and three others. My case has ‘only’ been going for three and a half years, with leave to appeal costs being declined Nottingham by the Court of Appeal last week – see Nottingham fails again in Court of Appeal, judicial system faltering. The week before: Nottingham fails another attempted appeal.

In July Nottingham was sentenced after being convicted on two breaches of non-publication orders and five charges of criminal harassment. From the sentencing notes:

[16] Variously, the conduct alleged in respect of the five complainants, and differently as between those five complainants, can be characterised as a combination of some or all of the following:

(g) Engaging in or threatening to engage in vexatious litigation.

[24] It was plain to me from the evidence that a number of these courses of conduct started with Mr Nottingham crossing the path of the individual complainant, either in his own capacity or on behalf of another individual, acting as their advocate.

[53] In his written submissions, Mr Nottingham makes it plain that he disagrees with the findings of the jury and challenges many of the rulings of the Court. As is characteristic of his approach to legal proceedings, I anticipate that Mr Nottingham will pursue all avenues of review and appeal and is unlikely ever to accept that what he did was not only unlawful, but reprehensible.

Nottingham has more proceedings pending in the courts.

Lundy appeal dismissed – “we are sure of Mr Lundy’s guilt”

Craig versus Williams granted leave to appeal and cross appeal

The Colin Craig versus Jordan Williams defamation saga continues, and it’s getting a bit complicated legally.

Williams won a record payout in a High Court jury trial. However the judge had concerns about that verdict.

Craig took it to the Court of Appeal, which ruled earlier this year hat it was “satisfied that the jury’s award of both compensatory and punitive damages was excessive or wrong, and must be set aside accordingly.”

Today the Supreme Court granted leave to appeal that to Williams, and also leave to cross appeal was granted to Craig.

So it’s looking increasingly likely the only winners will be the lawyers.

NZH: Supreme Court allows Craig v Williams defamation appeal over compensation amount

New Zealand’s highest court will allow challenges to a court’s ruling that $1.27 million in compensation for a man defamed by former politician Colin Craig was “excessive or wrong”.

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union executive director Jordan Williams sued Craig, the former Conservative Party leader, for defamation after Craig, in 2015, delivered 1.6 million pamphlets criticising Williams to homes across the country and held a press conference.

Williams sought compensatory damages of $400,000 and punitive damages of $90,000 for the remarks against him, and a further $650,000 in compensatory damages and $130,000 in punitive damages for the leaflets.

So this is likely to take at least a few more months, if not longer.

In the meantime Craig is still waiting for a judgment on the judge only defamation he took against Cameron Slater, who also took an action against Craig.

The Court of Appeal ruling: WILLIAMS v CRAIG [2018] NZCA 31 [5 March 2018]

High Court ruling: WILLIAMS v CRAIG [2017] NZHC 724 [12 April 2017]