I mentioned in an earlier post, Most Defamed Man Ever Jordan Williams to appeal ruling, that NZ Food and Grocery Council Inc lobby group head, former National Party MP and bright young hopeful Katherine Rich, had been ‘joined’ to a defamation action against dirty PR operator Carrick Graham and his glove puppet Cameron Slater.
This arose from revelations in Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics that the NZFGC Inc. had employed/contracted Carrick Graham’s dirty PR one man band to attack several health researchers though blog posts ghostwritten by Graham but published by Slater Jnr on his hate blog as if he were the author.
Hager’s book also showed that, just as Jordan Williams apparently did in his campaign against Colin Craig, Carrick Graham then added more insults and derogatory statements in the hate blog’s comment stream using pseudonyms (‘Naylor’ and ‘Lion King’ in Graham’s case). To me, that thoroughly dishonest practice indicates bad faith and an ill-will motivation. In my eyes, such subterfuge defeats an ‘honest opinion’ defence. (Oh, did I mention I also think it’s sleazy?)
Obviously, Ms Rich and the sugary fatty food and beverage merchants her lobby group represents were unhappy about their hidden role being exposed by Nicky Hager and Whaledump through Slater’s [allegedly] hacked emails and Facebook message interchanges with Carrick Graham – and even more so being attached to the resulting defamation action. Predictably, they hired expensive lawyers to try to extract themselves from the action.
It didn’t work. Twice so far.
Here’s a link to the first judgement joining them. And here’s a Courts of NZ link to this week’s more substantial judgement dismissing their application to have the action struck out for various reasons. Oh dear. [Note – Be careful of the suppression order at the top of page 1.]
I spent part of this afternoon reading Justice Matthew Palmer’s carefully reasoned decision about the matter, and was then entertained to read some coverage of it written by former NZ Herald editor Tim Murphy (on whose watch several Herald reporters were cultivated by Slater Jnr and, um, cooperated with his dirty politics machinations against NZ Labour Party figures and others before the dirty game was exposed by Rawshark and Hager).
Tim’s efficient summary of the decision and discussion of the case is definitely worth a read: Whaleoil, ex MP, PR man to face jury trial
Issues for bloggers and websites
Some of the issues raised as argument by Ms Rich’s high-powered lawyer Willy Akel (who consulted as a Simpson Grierson partner in my own copyright lawsuit a few years back) were very interesting to me as a blogger who occasionally publishes (cough) strong criticism of identifiable people using, you know, their names.
The discussion about time limitations for defamation actions effectively being defeated by the fact of the (possibly) defamatory statements still being ‘available’ on a website, and being kept alive by hyperlinks to them (effectively re-published), likewise, is sobering.
 In relation to defamation proceedings Parliament reconfirmed in 2010 that a standard limitation period of two years is appropriate – less than for other claims. That reflects a policy that a person who has been defamed ought to take legal steps to vindicate his or her rights relatively quickly after the defamation has been published, or after he or she reasonably becomes aware of its publication. That may be two years after a blog is first posted. But if the blog is still up on the web, and the publisher cannot show the post has not been accessed in the past two years, I see no reason why a defamed person should not be able to sue for the continuing publication of a blog in order to vindicate their reputation. Accordingly, I consider the multiple publication rule is the law in New Zealand.
Carrick Graham and his puppet/hireling Slater Jnr may also have a hard row to hoe grasping for an ‘honest opinion’ defence when it seems they were commissioned and paid to publish the derogatory statements. Ms Rich and the gang at NZ Food and Grocery Council Inc likewise, have to make their case that paying Carrick Graham for those self-same derogatory statements (and exulting in them) doesn’t somehow ‘convict’ them of the novel offence of ‘procuring’ defamatory publications. How dramatic.
Still, the substantive case is absolutely not proven yet, and don’t you forget it:
I was glad to see Graham’s and Slater Jnr’s ridiculous ‘Oh that’s just robust political debate of a public issue’ defence dismissed by Judge Palmer for the arrant nonsense it was. Such bullshit.
As I see it, these nasty operators cynically set out to forcibly and publicly reduce the credibility of the health researchers – yes, to defame them (as well as to dispirit and ‘silence’ them). If it hadn’t been for Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics, the plaintiffs would never have known the hate campaign against them was a sleazy commercial enterprise run by idiots.
To my mind, using a ‘blog’ as a cover for these cold-blooded hit jobs has been Cameron Slater’s defining dishonest skulduggery. Same with the Matthew Blomfield [alleged] defamation he carried out on behalf of others.
Let’s see if the chickens come home to roost. It’s up to the courts to decide.
Dirty deeds done cheap?
Earlier this year, Carrick Graham posted a self-promotional article on the internet, apparently designed to highlight his ‘expertise’ in dirty PR tricks. Here’s an extract …
“One trick of the trade is to use the Official Information Act (OIA) to create an issue which then grows into a problem for someone else. What begins as a simple, relatively innocuous request for information, suddenly has the potential to turn into a problem for say X company, if not managed well.
Here’s how it works.
An OIA is lodged with some regulatory agency tasked with the enforcement for a sector. The OIA asks if they have heard, or are aware, of any concerns about X company, alongside requesting some other information. In most cases, the regulator hasn’t heard of anything. But a seed has been planted.
Now the agency being targeted has a choice. It could easily dismiss the request, but just to be on the safe side, the person responsible for the OIA request will usually have had to ask someone else within the agency if they have heard anything about X company, usually by email. That little seed has now grown roots.
While this is taking place, a week or two later, another OIA request is lodged, this time with a Minister’s office, or if someone wants to be cunning, with several Minister’s offices that have corresponding portfolio responsibilities. This request is worded slightly differently, but it has a strategic intent – that is to create more questions, chatter and email traffic.
It is highly likely the Minister, or their staff, won’t have a clue about a complaint about X company. But working on the basis that staff may wonder why someone would bother asking about X company unless there is an issue with X company, and perhaps they (or the Minister) should be aware of it.
If they’re covering their bases, staffers will make some enquiries, and fire off an email to some government department asking if they heard of anything and is there anything that they (or their Minister) should be aware of re X company. As they have received a similar request they to start to wonder if X company has a problem. The seed now has been given fertiliser.
If a Minister’s office starts making enquiries to a government agency, the Chief Executives of that agency usually get told, there’s the odd phone call and more emails are generated, all of which has the effect of creating certain perceptions about X company.
Meanwhile, media contacts get tipped off that they’ve heard that the Government is asking questions about X company, and questions from a journalist could be interesting.
If the journalist makes enquiries, it adds a new dimension to the noise, and yet more emails are generated about X company.” – source: StopPress
What do you think? Is Carrick Graham some kind of ‘cunning’ genius? Or something else? Is he using or abusing the OIA?
The “Meanwhile, media contacts get tipped off…” part of this ‘trick of the trade’ is arguably what backfired on Carrick Graham and his client who set out to destroy her ex-husband using such techniques and, coincidently, using his glove puppet Cameron Slater’s PR attack blog. (See New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal – National Standards Committee v Denham and Lawyer Jeanne Denham who tried to destroy ex-husband Peter Clague’s career suspended [NZ Herald 30 Sept 2017].)
Facts are stated to the best of my knowledge and commentary is my honest opinion. Corrections or clarifications are always welcome by email. Comments are open, but may be moderated.
– Best wishes, Peter Aranyi
Archive copy of Tim Murphy’s article (PDF)