Ambrose lawsuit settled

March 21st, 2016 at 9:28 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

John Key has defended using taxpayer money to “pragmatically” settle defamation action relating to the “teapot tape”.

A meeting yesterday between the Prime Minister and a cameraman he had long maintained deliberately recorded the tape led to defamation action being dropped.

Mr Key’s office yesterday released an agreed statement with freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose, which said Mr Key now accepts the cafe recording was not deliberate, and acknowledged his previous comments on the matter as harmful.

No one but Mr Ambrose can know if it was deliberate. The “accident” story seems pretty far fetched to me, but I guess you can’t prove intent, so no real surprise it was settled with an acknowledgement that the recording was not deliberate.

Even accepting it was accidental, I still regard it as outrageous that media published a secret recording. The ethical thing to do would have been for the Herald on Sunday to delete the recording.

The Prime Minister will also make a “small payment” towards Mr Ambrose’s costs, which will be met from the Parliamentary leaders’ budget – something Labour and NZ First have criticised.

Some previous legal costs relating to the case had already been met by the leaders’ budget. Mr Key’s office would not reveal that amount.

At his regular post-Cabinet press conference, Mr Key was repeatedly asked whether it was correct to use taxpayer money to settle the defamation action.

If the Speaker rules the fund should not be used, the National Party would pay, Mr Key said.

“The rules have been pretty clear for a long period of time, and plenty of politicians have used the leaders’ fund, or if it as a minister or prime minister, Crown Law. So there is nothing new here.”

It may be legally correct to pay the small sum from the parliamentary budget, but I think it is a mistake to do so. It isn’t a good look.

The parliamentary budget is a fixed amount, so you can argue if not spent on this, it would be spent on something else. But at the end of the day, the optics are not good on it.

UPDATE: The tape was not officially published by the media but anonymously leaked online. I regard this as the same thing. Only staff at the Herald and Amrose had a copy of the recording, so either directly or indirectly they must have been responsible for leaking it and having it published online. TV3 also had a copy (presumably from Ambrose), and may have been responsible.

Ambrose sues Key

December 9th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

Freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose is seeking $1.25 million in damages from John Key, claiming the Prime Minister defamed him.

The action has been taken at the High Court in Auckland, according to an RNZ report.

Mr Ambrose made news in the lead up to the 2011 election when he left a switched-on recording device on a cafe table after reporters withdrew and Mr Key began a private conversation with then ACT leader John Banks. 

The freelancer has always denied he purposefully recorded the conversation.

As this is the subject of defamation, I’d advise commenters to be mindful in their comments.

Mr Ambrose is asking for:

  • $500,000 dollars in aggravated damages relating to comments made by the Prime Minister at a media conference three days after the cup of tea meeting

  • $500,000 for an interview Mr Key have to TV3’s Firstline the following day

  • $250,000 for comments the PM made to journalists at a stand-up press conference in Upper Hutt two days after the incident

I thought when you sued for defamation you couldn’t seek specific damages? Am I wrong, or has the law changed?

Police say taping was unlawful, but only a warning given

March 26th, 2012 at 2:49 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Police will not lay charges against freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose over the so-called “teapot tapes” affair, Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess says.

He said police will issue Mr Ambrose with a warning after referring the matter to Crown Law.

“While police have issued a warning in this instance, we are clear that the actions of Mr Ambrose were unlawful.” …

“One factor taken into account is a letter of regret from Mr Ambrose which has been sent to the Prime Minister and Mr Banks. They have both indicated acceptance of this statement.”

This seems a reasonable outcome. It is useful to have the clear opinion of the Police that the actions were unlawful. Without that, it would give the media open licence to leave concealed recorders all over the place.

Stuff reports:

While he only received a warning, Ambrose’s actions were illegal, Burgess said.

Future occurrences were likely to be prosecuted.

“We were satisfied on this occasion that there was (prima facie evidence).

But police decided there was not sufficient public interest in the matter going to court, he said.

“I reached the view that a prosecution was not required in this instance.”

The same grounds on which Helen Clark was not prosecuted.

The Teapot tape online

January 26th, 2012 at 12:12 pm by David Farrar

A copy of the teapot tape has been placed online, and the link e-mailed to a huge number of people from an anon e-mail address.

There are a very small number of people who have that file. Bradley Ambrose and the senior staff of the Herald on Sunday and TV3. Will any of them be brave enough to admit they did it? I will say I don’t think it is anyone from the Herald on Sunday. To be fair to them, they didn’t publish the tape originally, and it was TV3 that turned it into a daily circus.

I said before the election it was inevitable it would come out at some stage.

The recording is on You Tube (uploaded by 2Johns2Cups), plus two other locations. I’m not providing a direct link due to the questionable legality, but I do not believe saying where it has been published (as I have done) makes me a publisher, anymore than when newspapers reported Whale Oil had broken a suppression order (which sent everyone off to his site).

The irony is that the recording is quite benign, as the PM has said. The media beat this up into a nonsense, that just lowered their standing with most New Zealanders.

Hopefully this release will mean that we can all move on now, except of course we await the Police decision on the legality of making the recording.

Please do not post a direct link in the comments.

Costs against Ambrose

December 28th, 2011 at 10:29 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Government’s demand for court costs from cameraman Bradley Ambrose can only be seen as “political vindictiveness”, according to political analyst Dr Bryce Edwards.

The Attorney-General has filed a memorandum in the High Court at Auckland seeking $13,669.45 in costs from Mr Ambrose after the freelancer sought a declaration from the High Court on whether the “tea tape” conversation was private.

I disagree with Bryce on this one, and think he has overlooked a crucial factor.

First of all I would note that no one forced Mr Ambrose to file a lawsuit. He chose to do so, and presumably knew the chance of success was minimal, as a ruling would have undermined the Police investigation. Lawyers I spoke to said the chance of success was less than 1%, and he would have known this.

Otago University political analyst Dr Bryce Edwards told Newstalk ZB the almost $14,000 request is a small amount for the Government, and it was legitimate for Mr Ambrose to try to get a declaratory judgment on whether the conversation recorded between John Key and John Banks was private.

Dr Edwards felt the demand smacks of revenge.

It is standard to seek costs when someone files a lawsuit which forces you to respond, and they lose.

I suspect Bryce sees this as big nasty Government trying to screw over a struggling camera man. But there is no way Ambrose is paying for the court costs. Mediaworks, beyond doubt, bankrolled his court case and will pay the costs, if granted.

Mediaworks is a large commercial company, owned by an even larger one. I see no reasons why the taxpayer should subsidise them, through not claiming costs.

Bradley Ambrose

November 15th, 2011 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

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

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

The police suspension occurred in 2000 after items that allegedly belonged to White were found during a raid of Alp’s Mangere home. Alp was reportedly trying to recruit a private army to oppose the government at the time.

Alp – who said he’d met White at a friend’s wedding – claimed to have 100 members of his New Zealand Armed Intervention Force (NZAIF), armed and prepared to carry out “illegal” missions. Alp said White was not connected to the NZAIF.

Very strange. There’s normally a compelling reason for someone to change their name.