Covid-19 world roundup

Get rid of ‘old stale’ ideas: Prime Minister wants a new way out of the COVID-19 crisis for Australia

Scott Morrison is ready to hear ideas for economic reform but is a long way away from choosing the path ahead.

The Prime Minister is in what some call a “harvesting phase” on big reform options like tax, industrial relations and deregulation.

He wants business and community groups to come up with proposals but is not going to be prescriptive about the solution – whether that means changes to workplace rules or a company tax cut.

Morrison’s message is not so concrete because nobody can be certain of the depth of the economic chasm the country is falling into. To be blunt: the country is yet to hit the bottom. Nobody can be certain of the scale of the reforms needed to lift the country out.

Countries are wary of relaxing restrictions too quickly.

Merkel warns Germany is on the ‘thinnest ice’ as Europe realizes social distancing is here to stay

Germany risks squandering the gains it has made in slowing down the spread of the novel coronavirus if the country opens up too quickly, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned, joining leaders across Europe who have cautioned that any easing of lockdown restrictions would likely be gradual.

The country is “still at the beginning” of the coronavirus crisis and will have to live with the virus for a long time, Merkel told Germany’s parliament. “Nobody likes to hear this but it is the truth. We are not living through the final phase of this crisis,” she added.
German federal and state governments recently agreed to loosen some of the social distancing restrictions implemented to combat Covid-19, including allowing smaller shops to reopen. But Merkel warned against moving too fast. “This interim result is fragile. We are on thin ice, one could even say on thinnest ice,” Merkel cautioned.

Germany has a relatively low death rate compared to neighbouring European countries.

Belgium has the highest death rate at 540 per million of population, total deaths 6,262 (their population is 11.5 million, 2.35 times New Zealand’s population).

First patients injected in UK vaccine trial

The first human trial in Europe of a coronavirus vaccine has begun in Oxford.

Two volunteers were injected, the first of more than 800 people recruited for the study.

Half will receive the Covid-19 vaccine, and half a control vaccine which protects against meningitis but not coronavirus.

Prof Gilbert previously said she was “80% confident” the vaccine would work, but now prefers not to put a figure on it, saying simply she is “very optimistic” about its chances.

EU leaders agree huge rescue package

A plan for injecting billions of euros of emergency aid into Europe’s struggling economies has been agreed by EU leaders.

At a video conference they agreed to set up a massive recovery fund, to be closely tied to the bloc’s seven-year budget. The European Commission now has to work out the details.

They also confirmed that €540bn (£470bn) of financial support would be released through existing mechanisms, to ease the economic pain caused by coronavirus, from 1 June.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the future recovery fund would mobilise €1 trillion of investment.

Nearly 3 million New Yorkers have had coronavirus, antibody study suggests

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed Thursday that preliminary results from a coronavirus antibody study show the statewide infection rate is 13.9 percent, which would mean around 2.7 million residents could have carried the disease.

“These are people who were infected and who developed the antibodies to fight the infection,” Cuomo said. “They had the virus, they developed the antibodies and they are now ‘recovered’.”

@NYGovCuoma:

Percent positive by demographic:

  • Female: 12%
  • Male: 15.9%
  • Asian: 11.7%
  • Black: 22.1%
  • Latino/Hispanic: 22.5%
  • Multi/None/Other: 22.8%
  • White: 9.1%

Another clash between Trump and a top official:  Trump disregards science as chaos overtakes coronavirus response

In another bizarre twist, Trump produced Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to walk back his remarks that the coronavirus challenge could be more difficult in the fall.

Trump claimed that Redfield had been “totally misquoted” by the media. But under questioning from reporters, Redfield confirmed that he had in fact made the remarks that angered Trump.

“I’m accurately quoted in The Washington Post,” he conceded, as Trump countered that the headline was wrong. It accurately described Redfield warning that if a coronavirus resurgence came at the same time as the flu season, hospitals could be overwhelmed.

The President also openly clashed with his top public health officials on the likelihood of the virus returning for another assault in the fall — saying only “embers” of disease were likely that could be easily put out.

And more mixed messages:

The President did break with Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, saying he “strongly disagrees” with aggressive plans to open businesses including hair salons on Friday as pro-Trump southern states look to ease stay-at-home orders.

But his rebuke followed days of Trump all but goading southern conservative states to open up, even though many don’t yet meet White House opening guidelines. And a source familiar with calls between Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and the Georgia governor said that both men expressed support and praise for Kemp’s move to reopen businesses.


The British government’s chief medical adviser says the restriction will likely last into next year, saying it would be “wholly unrealistic” to expect things to return to normal any time soon.

United States President Donald Trump says there is “pent up demand” to ease social restrictions, but has conceded the measures may need to stay in place until at least the summer.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/415014/covid-19-live-updates-from-new-zealand-and-around-the-world-on-24-april

Trump impeachment trial begins

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump began in the Senate on Thursday (US time).

The lead up to this has been highly partisan, with Democrats promoting the trial and Republicans publicly judging in advance – with a majority they seem likely to acquit the president.

Before the trial began McConnell makes case for Trump acquittal ahead of trial

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday ripped House Democrats and made the case for the upper chamber acquitting President Trump as he waits for the articles of impeachment to be transmitted.

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor, did not directly call for senators to vote to acquit Trump but argued that senators cannot follow the House’s lead and agree that the president deserves to be impeached and ultimately removed from office.

“Speaker Pelosi and the House have taken our nation down a dangerous road.

Others claim that Trump is leading the US down a dangerous road.

If the Senate blesses this unprecedented and dangerous House process by agreeing that an incomplete case and subjective basis are enough to impeach a president, we will almost guarantee the impeachment of every future president,” McConnell said.

Meanwhile more has been happening – White House hold on Ukraine aid violated federal law, congressional watchdog says

The White House violated federal law in its hold on security aid to Ukraine last year, according to a decision by a congressional watchdog released on Thursday.

The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan agency that reports to Congress, found the Trump administration violated a law that governs how the White House disburses money approved by Congress.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the decision states. “OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.”

Not surprisingly:

The White House quickly rebutted the charge, criticizing the agency’s decision as an “overreach” and an attempt to insert itself into the “media’s controversy of the day.”

“We disagree with GAO’s opinion,” said OMB spokeswoman Rachel Semmel. “OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law.”

Lev Parnas: “President Trump knew exactly what was going on”

Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, said Wednesday night the president was fully aware of what he and associate Igor Fruman were doing in Ukraine. Parnas made the comments during an interview with Rachel Maddow, in which he also leveled allegations against Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General William Barr.

“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” Parnas said. “He was aware of all of my movements. He- I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.”

He also stated that Trump was lying when he said he didn’t know Parnas or Fruman. “He lied,” Parnas said.

In the interview, Parnas alleged that he was given specific instructions by Giuliani to inform Ukrainian government officials that the United States would withhold aid unless the Ukrainian government announced it was opening an investigation into the the Bidens.

“It wasn’t just military aid. It was all aid,” Parnas said. He also claimed that Giuliani told Ukrainian officials that Parnas was there as a representative of both himself and Mr. Trump, and that Ukrainian officials understood he was speaking on behalf of Mr. Trump.

Giuliani denied that claim while the interview was airing.

Parnas and Fruman are accused of helping Giuliani in his attempts to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden in Ukraine.

Parnas, a Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen, and Fruman, originally from Belarus, were arrested on campaign finance charges at Dulles International Airport in October.

Ukraine has announced a criminal investigation – but not into Joe Biden: Ukraine Investigates Reports of Surveillance of Marie Yovanovitch

The police in Ukraine have opened a criminal investigation into whether allies of President Trump had the United States ambassador to the country under surveillance while she was stationed in Kyiv, the Ukrainian government said on Thursday.

Democrats in the House of Representative on Tuesday revealed text messages to and from Lev Parnas — an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer — pointing to surveillance of the ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch, just before Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate was scheduled to begin.

Also on Thursday, Ukraine said it had asked the F.B.I. for help investigating the reported penetration of Burisma’s computer systems by hackers working for Russian intelligence.

As part of the pressure campaign against Ukraine, Mr. Trump’s allies were trying to have Ms. Yovanovitch, who was seen as an impediment, removed from her post. Mr. Trump recalled her last spring.

Last March, an exchange between Mr. Parnas and another man, Robert F. Hyde, indicated that Mr. Hyde was in contact with people who were watching Ms. Yovanovitch.

“They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” one message from Mr. Hyde read.

Mr. Parnas said in a televised interview on Wednesday that he had not taken Mr. Hyde’s offer seriously.

Mr. Hyde told the Sinclair Broadcasting host Eric Bolling in a television interview on Wednesday that he was “absolutely not” monitoring Ms. Yovanovitch. He said he was under the influence of alcohol when he sent his messages to Mr. Parnas.

“It was just colorful, we were playing — I thought we were playing,” Mr. Hyde said.

An odd sort of thing to be ‘playing’ about.

The Internal Affairs Ministry of Ukraine said in a statement released on Thursday that the country “cannot ignore such illegal activities” on its territory. “After analyzing these materials, the National Police of Ukraine upon their publication started criminal proceedings,” the statement read.

“Our goal is to investigate whether there were any violations of Ukrainian and international laws,” the ministry added. “Or maybe it was just bravado and fake conversation between two U.S. citizens.”

There may have been a lot of bravado and fake conversation going on, but the holding back of aid wasn’t fake.

It’s hard to see anything good or definitive coming out of the trial. Both sides will probably try to claim some sort of victory.

Grace Millane trial – closing arguments

I have tried to avoid a lot of the media detail on the Grace Millane murder trial, but what I had seen made me think it was tending to look like not guilty of murder, but as the defence has claimed, ‘rough sex’ gone badly wrong.

But I read through a summary of the prosecution and defence final arguments in the case yesterday, and that leant me back towards a reasonably possibility of a guilty verdict. There are some aspects that just don’t seem to be accidental, like if someone is being strangled this takes time – several minutes at least – and surely the person putting pressure on another persons throat would notice the victim go limp.

And what is alleged to have happened immediately after death – watching porn, googling Waitakere ranges (where the body ended up being buried) and “hottest fire”, and taking photos of the body (the defence claim there is no proof she ws dead then), don’t fit with the defendant’s claim that they had sex, he had a shower and went to bed and found Millane dead on the floor in the morning.

And then there is the burying of the body and the lying to police.

Stuff have a detailed report on the prosecution and defence final arguments here (read from the Live section bottom to top) – Grace Millane murder trial: Crown and defence sum up the case

Reports from Stuff – Grace Millane murder trial: A ‘compelling case of murder’ or an unforeseen accident?

And: Grace Millane murder trial: Judge to sum up the case

The jury deciding the case of the man accused of murdering Grace Millane will hear a summing up from Justice Simon Moore on Friday.

The jurors will then retire to consider their verdict at the High Court in Auckland.

They have heard closing arguments from the Crown and defence lawyers, as well as weeks of evidence.

It’s difficult to know what the outcome of a trial like this will be from a smattering of media reports only. The jury has heard all the evidence and arguments, and will make decisions based on all of that.

It looks unlikely there will be verdict today or this week.

Media agreement on coverage of Tarrant trial

David posted this comment:

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/05/01/self-censorship-media-new-zealand-white-supremacist-2019-226766

Kiwiblog also covers this. Its an outrage that the press has self censored itself as a collective with the government complicit.

“The Kiwi editors don’t appear to trust their readers and viewers to handle the difficult and disturbing material that’s sure to billow out of the Tarrant trial. They regard New Zealanders as children who must be sheltered from the heinous and despicable lest they become tainted with its influence.”

Its worth reading the story from an outsiders point and shines a light on the paternalistic overview that our “betters” in the media exhibit. I would like to see full coverage without sensationalizing the bits that irresponsible media usually do, I want the different perspectives of a varied and uncensored free press usually give. And its appalling that the government and the press think that if we hear what this loon says we will see it as a call to arms. Bloody ridiculous.


Here are the “agreed editorial guidelines” – Reporting the Trial of Brenton Tarrant

MEDIA STATEMENT – NZ MEDIA FREEDOM COMMITTEE
REPORTING THE TRIAL OF BRENTON TARRANT
[1 May 2019]

Senior editors of the major accredited news media companies in New Zealand (TVNZ, Stuff, Mediaworks, NZME and RNZ) have committed to a united approach in reporting the trial of Brenton Tarrant following the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, 15 March, 2019. The group of editors, representing the New Zealand Media Freedom Committee, has agreed a set of protocols to ensure that the outlets they represent cover the upcoming trial comprehensively and responsibly.

A group statement and a copy of the agreed editorial guidelines is attached for your information.

Requests for further information or comment should be directed to the respective media organisations.

MEDIA STATEMENT – NZ MEDIA FREEDOM COMMITTEE

REPORTING THE TRIAL OF BRENTON TARRANT 

We are the senior editors representing the major accredited news media companies in New Zealand (TVNZ, Stuff, Mediaworks, NZME and RNZ).

As a group and as individual editors we are committed to ensuring the outlets we represent cover the upcoming trial of Brenton Tarrant comprehensively and responsibly.

We have agreed to abide by these guidelines throughout the trial.

BACKGROUND 
Brenton Harrison Tarrant is charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 charges of attempted murder relating to shootings carried out at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, 15 March, 2019.

Victims of the terror attack include citizens of twelve different countries.

We represent accredited New Zealand media organisations that plan to attend the trial and associated proceedings for the purposes of reportage.

As editors we are mindful of the public interest in the trial, in New Zealand and internationally.

We are also mindful of our role as the “eyes and ears of the public” in the context of court reporting. In this instance, we acknowledge the particular importance of this function, given the many victims’ friends and families outside New Zealand who may otherwise be unable to engage in the trial process.

We are aware that the accused may attempt to use the trial as a platform to amplify white supremacist and/or terrorist views or ideology.

GUIDELINES
We agree that the following Protocol will apply to our outlets’ coverage and reportage of the trial:

(a) We shall, to the extent that is compatible with the principles of open justice, limit any coverage of statements, that actively champion white supremacist or terrorist ideology.
(b) For the avoidance of doubt the commitment set out at (a) shall include the accused’s manifesto document “The Great Replacement”.
(c) We will not broadcast or report on any message, imagery, symbols or signals (including hand signals) made by the accused or his associates promoting or supporting white supremacist ideology.
(d) Where the inclusion of such signals in any images is unavoidable, the relevant parts of the image shall be pixellated.
(e) To the greatest extent possible, the journalists that are selected by each of the outlets to cover the trial will be experienced personnel.
(f) These guidelines may be varied at any time, subject to a variation signed by all parties.
(g) This Protocol shall continue in force indefinitely.

SIGNED:
Miriyana Alexander (NZME and chair of the Media Freedom Committee)
John Gillespie (TVNZ)
Shayne Currie (NZME)
Mark Stevens (Stuff)
Paul Thompson (RNZ)
Hal Crawford (Mediaworks)


This is an unusual approach for what is an extraordinary situation.

Media always make judgements about what court cases they will report on and what they will report. What is different here is agreement between all the major media organisations.

Thins could change if circumstances change – “These guidelines may be varied at any time, subject to a variation signed by all parties.”

Blomfield versus Slater trial over?

The Matthew Blomfield versus Cameron Slater defamation trial started last Monday, but I still can’t find any media coverage, so it’s hard to know exactly what is going on.

Slater posted on it at Whale Oil on Tuesday but he claimed this:

Legal action was started six years ago, but given the nature of [redacted], the plaintiff hasn’t actually been very keen to get the case before the court and has used every trick in the book to avoid this trial while I have fought to get the case before the judge.

That is so ridiculous (Blomfield as the Plaintiff could have ended the action any time he wanted to and court judgments show that Slater tried to appeal, delay and strike out the action) that anything Slater claims should be viewed with scepticism.

‘Bill Brown’ claimed here on Wednesday that the trial “Starts next Monday” but that is obviously wrong.

The case was included every day this week on the High Court Daily List, but it shows a change for Monday:

CIV2013-404-5218 Civil Proceeding – Defamation
MATTHEW JOHN BLOMFIELD (F E Geiringer, G Vosper) v CAMERON JOHN SLATE (GF Littlie SC, D Beard)

That suggests Slater was right about one thing, he has another law representing him now.

But I have heard that the trial may have ended on Friday, even though it was set down for up to four weeks. I’m not sure what this means.

I know from past judgments that Slater “has not advanced an arguable defence” on some publications. He may have since done that but this suggests his defence in part at least is not strong. See BLOMFIELD v SLATER [2018] NZHC 1099 [18 May 2018] for a summary as at May this year.

The publications are incapable of amounting to expressions of opinion

[80] As I have already observed, it is for the Judge in the first instance to determine whether, reading the publication as a whole and assuming the pleaded imputations can be proved, the publication is capable of being an expression of opinion rather than a statement of fact.

[81] Mr Geiringer invites me to consider this issue now to avoid wasting time at trial dealing with a defence that is not available given the wording used in the publications. I agree that this would have advantages. I consider, however, that the assessment should properly be made once the pleadings are in their final form. One reason for this is that an order for strike out at this stage gives rise to appeal rights that could jeopardise the trial date. Given the age of this proceeding that would be highly
unfortunate.

[82] Furthermore, and as I have already observed, the defence must be based on the facts referred to in the publication together with other facts that were generally known at the time of the publication. There is no ability, as there is in a defence based on truth, to rely on facts that come into existence after the publication. These factors significantly restrict the scope of the evidence that Mr Slater may adduce to establish the defence. I therefore do not consider there is much scope in the present case for Mr Slater to call a significant body of additional evidence in relation to the defence of honest opinion.

[83] I therefore consider the issue should properly be considered at trial. It will be for the trial Judge to ensure Mr Slater does not call evidence beyond the scope of that permitted to establish the defence.

Slater only needs to lose on one publication to lose the case, but I presume the number of defamatory publications would affect the possible damages awarded. That will be for the judge to decide, which we will find out in due course.

No news on Blomfield v Slater

I previewed the defamation trial between Matthew Blomfield and Cameron Slater here: Whale Oil be fucked? Defamation trial against Slater starting on Monday

As far as I know the trial started on Monday but I can find no media coverage, which seems unusual. Perhaps Slater is too toxic for the media to cover him any more, but that seems unlikely.

It has been on the Court Daily List all week, but there is a curious change. On Monday and Tuesday it was shown as:

NO 8 COURT BEFORE THE HON. JUSTICE DAVISON
CIV2013-404-5218 MATTHEW JOHN BLOMFIELD (F E Geiringer) v CAMERON JOHN SLATER  (D Beard) & ANOR
Civil Proceeding – Defamation

But on today’s list (Wednesday) it has changed from to ‘Civil Proceeding – Defamation’ to ‘Pre-trial hearing’ I have no idea what that means. It could be just a mistake, I think there was a pre-trial hearing on Friday.

SB posted at Whale Oil on Monday:  Do you want the good news or the bad news?

Starting today Cam is back in the High Court for up to four weeks depending on how the trial goes. The battle royale starts today.

It certainly feels very bizarre to be back in the high court for a second case when the first case from over a year ago has still not concluded.

This time around I will not be able to accompany Cam as I was only a part-timer back then but I work full time, seven days a week for the blog now.

Last time Cam was able to do some posts because we rented an apartment that was walking distance from the court so there was no long commute to and from the court each day. In fact, we spent our 25th Wedding Anniversary there. This time around Cam will be doing the long commute between the city and Whangaparaoa each day instead. If the case goes for the full 4 weeks Cam will be spending his 50th birthday.

Last time was Craig versus Slater. The judgment is not yet out, well over a year after the trial.

I know from our last experience that Cam will be mentally, physically and emotionally drained at the end of each week so I have done a Jacinda and made a Captain’s Call. I have put my foot down and told him that he is not to write on the weekends until the case is over.

I have told him to rest on the weekends and that we will all just have to cope without him.

During Craig trial, and when Slater was ill early last year, there were some posts from Slater. Since then Whale Oil has become much less reliant on his input, with SB taking a much more active role and a number of others becoming regular contributors. WO seems to be chugging away ok there, although comment numbers seem to be lower.

We are VERY confident that we will win this latest court case but your guess is as good as mine as to how long it will take to get a judgement.

The Whale Meat Company is currently helping us to fund our court case so your support of our new business is not only feeding your family it is supporting ours while ensuring that Whaleoil will not be silenced.

There were supporting comments and commiserations for the fading political activist.

A curious comment from ‘Loki’ here yesterday:

Things went horribly wrong for our hero yesterday.
No court today !

That appears to be a sarcastic reference to Slater.

‘Bill Brown’, who keeps trying to disguise his association with the case, has not been here reporting any positives so his optimism that some claims had been dropped was a positive may have been premature.

Court cases can be a black hole for information if media don’t cover them, and if you can’t attend in person. I will keep an eye out for any developments, but for now there is little information available.

Whale Oil be fucked? Defamation trial against Slater starting on Monday

Whale Oil potentially be fucked if the defamation trial about to start in the Auckland High Court is successful.

Matthew Blomfield started defamation proceedings against Cameron Slater in 2012 after a series of posts (thirteen) on Whale Oil attacking Blomfield. It finally goes to trial on Monday after Slater ran out of legal options to avoid facing the claims against him.

NO 8 COURT BEFORE THE HON. JUSTICE DAVISON
First Floor 10.00am
CIV2013-404-5218 MATTHEW JOHN BLOMFIELD (F E Geiringer) v CAMERON JOHN SLATER (D Beard) & ANOR
Civil Proceeding – Defamation

The defamation claim

[5] In 2012, Mr Slater ran and administrated the blog website “Whale Oil” under the name http://www.whaleoil.co.nz (Whale Oil). Mr Blomfield had provided marketing services to Hells Pizza until 2008 and had been a director of a company Hell Zenjiro Ltd (in liquidation), which had owned several outlets of the Hells Pizza chain. That company went into liquidation on 9 April 2008 and was struck off the Companies Register on 6 September 2013. Mr Blomfield was adjudicated a bankrupt in 2010 and an order was made prohibiting him from being a director of a company. He has since been discharged from bankruptcy

[6] Hells Pizza had an association with a charity known as “KidsCan”. On 3 May 2012 Mr Slater wrote and published on his Whale Oil website a blog post entitled “Who really ripped off KidsCan?”. It contained a number of statements that Mr Blomfield claims were defamatory of him. On the same day Mr Slater wrote another blog on the Whale Oil website entitled “Knowing me, knowing you – Matt Blomfield”. In that story he made a number of statements about Mr Blomfield. Between 3 May 2012 and 6 June 2012, Mr Slater wrote and published on his website 13 articles that referred to Mr Blomfield.

[7] Mr Blomfield claims that these articles allege that he had conspired to steal charitable funds and was alleged to be a thief, as well as dishonest, dishonourable, a party to fraud, involved in criminal conspiracy, bribery, deceit, perjury, conversion, the laying of false complaints, drug dealing and making pornography. He was also accused of being a psychopath, a criminal, a thief and a “cock smoker”.

[8] The majority of the articles that are the subject of the claim contain extracts of emails to which Mr Blomfield is allegedly a party. They refer to electronic files which Mr Blomfield claims were sourced from his hard-drive and potentially other sources including a filing cabinet of Mr Blomfield.

[9] Mr Slater admitted in his statement of defence that he had in his possession copies of emails, databases and electronic files relating to the affairs of Mr Blomfield. He stated that on or about February 2012 he was provided with a
hard-drive that included approximately one terabyte of computer files previously owned by Mr Blomfield.

[10] Following the publication of the articles on the Whale Oil website, Mr Blomfield filed proceedings in the Manukau District Court in October 2012 in which he claimed that the statements and the articles were defamatory. He sought anorder that the material relating to him be removed from the Whale Oil website as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

SLATER v BLOMFIELD [2014] NZHC 2221 [12 September 2014]

The trial was initially delayed due to arguments about Slater’s status as a journalist, and whether this allowed him to keep secret sources of material he published – he had appeared to be acting on behalf of others. Slaater was found to be acting as a journalist, but in 2014 a judge ruled:

[150] On balance the public interest in disclosure outweighs any adverse effects on the informants and the ability of the media to freely receive information and access sources.

[151] Therefore Mr Blomfield succeeds on overview and there is an order that s 68(1) does not apply, and Mr Slater must answer the interrogatories and comply with discovery in the usual way.

SLATER V BLOMFIELD CA 678/2014 [2015] NZCA 240 [17 June 2015]

Slater applied to adduce new evidence, and tried to appeal, but eventually failed, as did other legal attempts. A judgment from 6 July 2017:

[2] Mr Slater has applied to strike out Mr Blomfield’s proceeding on grounds of delay. Mr Blomfield applies for further discovery, on an “unless” basis. Both applications are opposed. Mr Blomfield contends that the delay in prosecuting his claim to hearing has largely been caused by Mr Slater’s own actions.

[30] Mr Slater referred me to a wealth of information to suggest that Mr Blomfield may not have had any relevant business reputation at the time the articles were published on the Whaleoil site. He submitted that the Court’s resources should not be deployed to deal with such an undeserving claim for defamation.

[31] I do not accept that this proceeding is of such a character as to justify invocation of the Jameel approach. A number of the allegations made against Mr Blomfield go beyond his business activities and/or practices; in particular, the suggestions that he might be a pornographer and/or a psychopath. In my view, while there may be a question about the value of his claims based on business reputation, the same cannot be said about those other aspects of the claim.

[32] In those circumstances, the better course is to ensure the proceeding is readied for trial promptly. Mr Slater’s application to strike out is dismissed.

BLOMFIELD v SLATER [2017] NZHC 1654 [18 July 2017]

The trial is set to start over a year later.

While Slater is in the firing line, if he loses this Whale Oil will take a hit as well. Slater has been far less prominent on the blog over the last few months so it could probably survive without him, but if a sizeable award goes against Slater, or even just costs (costs are eye-wateringly high in defamation proceedings) it would put the blog at financial risk – Whale Oil could be fucked.

Slater has not been acting alone through all this. He was supplied information – one of the sources has been revealed as Marc Spring, and the court ordered that others be revealed but I don’t think that has shown in court judgments.

In 2015 Spring also tried to use Your NZ to continue attacks on Blomfield against a court agreement with Slater and against a restraining order. I believe that me stopping Spring was at least part of the reason he Slater and Dermot Nottingham turned on me, attacking me here, via lauda Finem and via the courts (the legal harassment is ongoing, I have a hearing v Nottingham in the Court of Appeal on Tuesday).

Spring has obvious associations with Lauda Finem, where attacks against Blomfield continued well into 2016, until Blomfield had the site shut down by court order (I think that something on that is also due to come up in court this month).

Nottingham has also been thick in this. Both he and Spring feature here: SLATER v BLOMFIELD [2014] NZHC 2221 [12 September 2014].

And Nottingham continued to assist Slater:

Hearing: 6 July 2017
Counsel: F Geiringer for Plaintiff
C J Slater, in person, Defendant
(D Nottingham as McKenzie Friend for Mr Slater)

With friends like that…

And this year Nottingham was sentenced for breaching non-publication orders (suppression) and criminal harassment via Lauda Finem – see  “Either Dermot Nottingham is Lauda Finem…or he is so intimately related to it…”

It would appear that Slater has a difficult defence on at least some of the claims.

The ninth publication – 17 May 2012

[51] Mr Slater has not responded to the evidence adduced by Mr Blomfield regarding this issue.

[52] The overall tenor of the publication is clearly defamatory because it accuses Mr Blomfield of stealing assets belonging to the company and then selling them to a third party

.The twelfth publication – 6 June 2012

[61] Mr Slater has not responded to this evidence so for present purposes must be taken to have no answer to it. He would therefore appear to have no arguable defence to the claim relating to this publication. As in the case of the ninth publication, however, I propose to exercise my discretion against the entry of summary judgment and for the same reasons.

BLOMFIELD v SLATER [2018] NZHC 1099 [18 May 2018]

The challenge:

[76] Mr Slater needs to be aware, however, that the defences comprise different elements. For that reason the same particulars may not support both defences. In order to establish the defence of truth, for example, it is necessary for the defendant to set out the facts and circumstances relied upon to prove either that the pleaded imputations are true or substantially true, or that the publication as a whole is substantially true.

[78] The defence of honest opinion requires the defendant to establish that, reading the publication as a whole, such imputations as the fact finder has found to exist were conveyed by the publication as expressions of opinion rather than statements of fact. It is for the Judge in the first instance to determine whether the imputations are capable of being opinion rather than fact. Importantly, the facts in the publication must have existed at the time of the publication and must either have been alleged or referred to in the publication. Alternatively, they must have been generally known at the time. The defendant may not go outside these parameters in establishing the defence of honest opinion. Furthermore, the defendant may not call evidence at trial that is outside the ambit of the permitted particulars. For that reason the particulars “serve to focus and confine the evidence which may be given in support of defences of truth
and honest opinion”.

[79] Mr Slater needs to re-plead his statement of defence and particulars bearing in mind these principles. He also needs to be aware that he will not be permitted to call evidence at trial if it falls outside the pleadings in their final form.

The means that Slater cannot use the trial as a way of continuing the campaign against Blomfield by calling witnesses in order to attack Blomfield when this is outside the defence of ‘honest opinion’ – I think his defence has to be based on his own opinion at the time of publishing the posts on Whale Oil, not the ‘opinions’ of his associates and accomplices.

I have a particular interest in this because I got dragged into this as a means to try to avoid court orders.

But there should be wider interest.

If Blomfield is successful there is a real possibility that Whale Oil be fucked.

Craig and MacGregor admit defamation trial is of no benefit to either of them

The Colin Craig versus Rachel MacGregor defamation trial has now been going for a week. I don’t have any interest in rehashing old evidence dragged up again.

There are two things worth noting.

One is the bizarre situation where, accused of harassment but acting for himself, Craig is able to cross-examine MacGregor as a witness. Stuff:  Colin Craig begins cross examination of Rachel MacGregor in defamation trial

In an awkward interaction, Craig cross-examined MacGregor on Friday afternoon, with MacGregor refusing to look at her former employer.

It is the second time this has played out – Craig cross-examined MacGregor at his defamation trial against blogger Cameron Slater last year.

The second:

Craig told MacGregor on Friday he did not “consider that this proceeding is in the interest of either party”.

“Do you accept that?” Craig asked.

“Yes, I do,” MacGregor replied.

So why the hell is it happening? Courts are overloaded with important stuff, so this is a drain on limited resources.

I think it’s unlikely this is MacGregor’s choice. Craig seems to have become obsessed with using the courts to try to prove something. There has been:

  • Williams versus Craig (not Craig’s choice)
  • Craig versus Slater & Slater versus Craig
  • Craig versus Stringer
  • Craig verses Stiekema
  • Craig versus MacGregor & MacGregor versus Craig

Obviously the last of those is before the court still. Stringer may be finished with, but all the others are in various states of progress through the courts.

Related to these (having also been caused by posts on Whale Oil):

  • Blomfield versus Slater (due in court in October)
  • Sellman, Swinburn, Bradbrook versus Slater, Graham, Facilitate Communications Limited, Katherine Rich, New Zealand Food and Grocery Council Inc

The latter provides some insight into claims that seem to be common across all of these cases:

[11] In 31 causes of action the plaintiffs seek general damages, aggravated and punitive damages and costs from Mr Slater, Mr Graham and FCL in various combinations for defaming them in different combinations in the 31 posts. In nine more causes of action (numbers 32 to 40) the plaintiffs allege Mr Graham and FCL defamed them in various combinations in comments on the posts. In one cause of action, number 41, all plaintiffs seek general damages, aggravated and punitive damages and costs from Ms Rich and the NZFGC for procuring Mr Graham, FCL and Mr Slater to publish the substance and sting of the defamatory statements.

[12] The defendants deny the allegations against them and offer several affirmative defences

(a) a number of the causes of action are time-barred;

(b) all statements on all causes of action are true and statements of honest opinion;

(c) all statements attract qualified privilege as part of robust political debate about matters of legitimate public interest regarding the regulation of alcohol, sugar, fat and tobacco

Result

[125] I decline the applications to strike-out the causes of action except in relation to the pleaded meanings identified in the table annexed to this judgment.

SELLMAN & ORS v SLATER & ORS [2017] NZHC 2392 [2 October 2017]

That judgment was almost exactly a year ago. I presume this case is still progressing, slowly as defamation cases seem to. They tend to be drawn out and expensive.

What you see in news reports is mostly just on actual trials. There can be a lot of other processes including submissions, rulings and court hearings involved.

I doubt there will be any real winners in all of this. Some may get enough damages and costs to cover their expenses, but most reputations have been irreparably damaged, and that gets amplified by all the court carry on.

Defamation trial – Craig versus McGregor

A two week judge only defamation trial between Colin Craig and his ex-party secretary Rachel McGregor is due to start tomorrow. There have been a number of high profile defamation cases involving Craig, and McGregor has been a feature of most of them, but this case has not received much if any attention so far.

Stuff: Public appeal for funds ahead of Rachel MacGregor’s defamation action against Colin Craig

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor go head to head in a defamation case at the High Court in Auckland on Monday.

In the latest stage in the ongoing very public saga of the pair’s work relationship, the case goes to court after Craig filed defamation proceedings against MacGregor in November 2016.

Craig’s case is based on what he alleges are three separate defamations of him.

MacGregor has responded with a counterclaim alleging Craig defamed her in four separate incidents.

The issues at the heart of the proceedings came to public attention when MacGregor resigned as Craig’s press secretary two days before the 2014 election. The same day, she filed a claim of sexual harassment against him with the Human Rights Commission, allegations he denied.

At mediation, they settled the sexual harassment claim and a financial dispute, and signed a confidentiality agreement.

MacGregor subsequently complained to the Human Rights Review Tribunal that Craig had breached the confidentiality agreement, by doing media interviews and holding two press conferences.

The tribunal found in her favour, and ordered Craig to pay MacGregor $128,000.

In an interview with Stuff Circuit, timed to launch a public appeal to help her fund her legal defence, MacGregor said: “I don’t have any assets. I am just absolutely nowhere as wealthy as Colin Craig.”

MacGregor said it’s been a tough four years having to navigate the legal system.

“I would not be able to do that on my own and I don’t know how people are expected to navigate it on their own.”

She is still bound by the confidentiality agreement and said, “There’s a real asymmetry. People have mainly heard his side of the story and … the little bits of mine that they’ve heard, I haven’t been able to lead the narrative. I haven’t been able to tell my story on my terms and it’s really frustrating.”

This is not a great way to get to tell one’s side of a messy story.

Defamation trials can be very expensive. Craig is representing himself.

McGregor has already been dragged into two related defamation cases as a subject and a witness. One is Jordan Williams versus Craig, currently heading to a Supreme Court appeal and cross appeal:

A Leave to appeal and leave to cross-appeal is granted (Williams v Craig [2018] NZCA 31).

B The approved question is whether the Court of Appeal erred in allowing the appeal to that Court in part and dismissing the cross-appeal to that Court.

The other is Craig versus Cameron Slater. The trial was held in May-June 2017, but there has been no judgment yet. It is possible the judge in that trial is waiting on outcomes from Williams versus Craig.

Slater is heading for another defamation trial next month, taken against him by Matthew Blomfield, also as a result of posts on Whale Oil.

Craig has also been to court versus John Stringer. I find the last judgment: CRAIG v STRINGER [2017] NZHC 3221 [19 December 2017] confusing between plaintiffs and defendants but it includes an order rewording a previous judgment including:

[2] The wording of the judgment is amended to now read:

(a) There is judgment for the plaintiff against the defendant in relation to the following publications alleging:

(i) The plaintiff sexually harassed one or more women other than Rachel MacGregor;

(b) The plaintiff’s claims, save his claims in relation to publications alleging that the plaintiff sexually harassed Rachel MacGregor, are otherwise dismissed.

There have been a number of ugly aspects to these protracted defamation proceedings. They are set to get another airing in court over the next two weeks,

Manafort trial judge has received threats

The jury in the Paul Manafort trial are still deliberating. There’s a pile of papers and 18 charges so it’s not surprising it is taking a while to arrive at verdicts.

In a bizarre twist the trial judge says there have been threats made against him.

NBCNews:  Judge in Paul Manafort trial says he has gotten threats

District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, who is overseeing the bank and tax fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, said Friday that he has received threats that necessitate U.S. marshal protection to and from the courthouse.

“I had no idea that this case would excite these emotions, I will tell you that frankly,” Ellis told the court as the jury, which was not present for his comments, deliberated for a second day. The case is being tried in Alexandria, Virginia.

Ellis’s admission came during an afternoon hearing brought by a coalition of media outlets, including NBC News, to unseal juror names and bench conference transcripts of conversations the judge has had with the defense and the prosecution.

Ellis refused to reveal the names of the jurors because he fears they would face similar threats — without being afforded the same protections.

“I have no reason to believe that, if those names are unsealed, there won’t be threats against them,” he said.

Ellis also said he would not unseal the one bench conference related to the ongoing investigation, because he did not want to interfere in it, though at the conclusion of the case, he will unseal transcripts related to the administration of the jury.

Manafort is facing 18 charges of tax and banking fraud, and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Prosecutors have painted Manafort as a liar who hid millions from U.S. tax authorities in overseas accounts for years, while Manafort’s attorneys sought to paint him as a talented political consultant who had served several elected officials, including Trump, while pinning the blame for any wrongdoing on Rick Gates, Manafort’s former protégé and the key witness against him.

Threatening a trial judge is a very serious allegation.