Sunday, April 01, 2007

What are some of the facts?

This blog has been created to inform people about some of the facts and information which haven't been suppressed in relation to the historic rape allegations and trials, via media articles and reporting.

No information on here is in any breach of any suppression order and this information is all freely available and open to the public as it is all referenced to media articles. It is also available on other websites.

All the articles on here are in chronological order, with the latest being at the top and oldest down the bottom or archived. I suggest taking a look at some of the earlier archived articles if you would like to see some of the background/ build up to the current situation.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Gossip fuels trial by the masses

The Dominion Post
Gossip fuels trial by the masses
08 April 2006

The trial was over in the courtroom but in the streets, via e-mail and on the Internet, it was just warming up.

Information kept from the jury at the Louise Nicholas case spread quickly throughout New Zealand after the not guilty verdicts were delivered in the High Court at Auckland last week.
Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards and former policemen Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton were acquitted on all 20 sex charges.

At the end of the trial, Justice Tony Randerson ordered that widespread suppression orders made at the start would continue. Internet bulletin boards and chatrooms may need to be monitored, he said.

He was correct, but it was old-fashioned tactics that grabbed attention. On Monday, a group of women handed out 1600 leaflets breaching the suppression orders to commuters at Wellington railway station. Spokeswoman Grace Millar said the orders had meant important prosecution evidence was not presented in court.

The leaflets were modified after the group was approached by police. Others were later handed out at the University of Auckland and in Christchurch's Cathedral Square.

And if the leaflets were not enough, mass e-mails dramatically sped up the flow of the offending information. The text of the leaflet was copied into an e-mail and circulated. At least one other bulk e-mail has done the rounds.

Ms Millar says she does not know who was responsible for either e-mail. "Certainly people have done things with the leaflet that we wrote that we didn't anticipate."

Meanwhile, people have been discussing the orders through Internet news groups, blogs, message boards and chatrooms. The Nicholas case has again highlighted that the bigger the trial the better the chance that secret details will emerge.

Last July, the country was abuzz at news that television stars were embroiled in a "white collar" drug bust in Auckland. By the time the media was allowed to identify the key players – former All Black Marc Ellis and league star Brent Todd – it seemed the entire country already knew, courtesy of e-mails.

Within days of charges being laid, the gossip had even hit the stock market – shares in Ellis' Charlie's juice company fell 33 per cent.

Why do the courts suppress some information?

Name suppression is automatic for some people, such as the victims of sex crimes (unless the court permits publication) and those accused of incest. Judges can suppress other names and details to avoid a trial being prejudiced.

University of Canterbury media law expert Professor John Burrows says that though suppression orders could sometimes be made "very quickly" when people first appeared in the district court, those made in the High Court were likely to be carefully considered and made with good reason.

"People who don't know the reason take a real risk if they try and breach the order."
Police national e-crime manager Maarten Kleintjes says suppression orders are made to ensure people receive fair trials or to protect witnesses.

"The court doesn't put these suppression orders in place for a joke. They are there for a serious reason and people should respect that."

Media organisations have the right to appeal against suppression orders and are sometimes successful.

What are the dangers in breaching a suppression order?

People who breach a suppression order can face a $1000 fine for each offence. They cannot be arrested but can be summoned before the court.

Professor Burrows says it has been suggested that if a breach was deliberate, "it could be a lot higher than that. That's never been tested in New Zealand".

Offenders can also face contempt of court charges, which can carry a fine or a jail term. Police are gathering evidence about this week's suppression breaches, both by electronic and leaflet methods. Complaints have also been received by the office of Solicitor-General Terence Arnold, QC, which decides whether to take action on contempt of court in association with the judiciary.
Canterbury University senior law lecturer Ursula Cheer, a colleague of Professor Burrows, says the pamphlets circulated by the women are also potentially defamatory. "To suggest that somebody is guilty of an offence when they have been found not to be could fall into that category."

Professor Burrows says prosecutions for breaching suppressions are pretty rare in New Zealand. "The main reason for that is the media are usually pretty responsible about it."
He was not aware of any prosecutions resulting from breaches on the Internet, though there had been successful defamation cases.

A Crown Law spokeswoman says warnings for contempt are more common than prosecutions. Media organisations are sometimes warned about pre-trial publicity being potentially prejudicial to a court case.

"This is a bit more unusual because these people have been passing out pamphlets."

Who polices the Internet?

It appears no one in New Zealand is dedicated to monitoring it. But government agencies, including Crown Law, say offending material will come to their attention through media monitoring and word-of-mouth.

Mr Kleintjes says police do not monitor the Internet to search for name suppression breaches, or other offending material. "It is conceivable in future that there is a branch of police that walks the beat in cyberspace, if you like. As far as I know, there's nothing in place like that at the moment."

Cyber police are among options being considered in an Economic Development Ministry discussion paper.

Mr Kleintjes says police investigate if they come across offending electronic material or if someone complains, as with other types of offending. The e-crime unit collected data and carried out forensic investigations when asked. "We could be asked to track down where an e-mail came from – that would be within our line of work."

The unit has so far not worked on any suppression cases, though it has traced the origins of abusive and threatening e-mails, he says.

So to whom was Justice Randerson directing his comments when he said the Internet might have to be monitored for suppression breaches?

Judiciary communications adviser Neil Billington says the comments would have been directed at the Crown prosecutors. "It's not the responsibility of the courts, the judge or the Justice Ministry to actively monitor this." Judges would generally act on "contempt in the face of the court" if it arose during a trial.

During the Nicholas case, two members of the public were held in contempt by Justice Randerson – a woman who spoke to a juror and a man who breached a court order.
Mr Billington says that in other instances, a wider investigation by police or advice from the solicitor-general could be required.

In many cases, website moderators and owners monitor material because they could be culpable for anything that breaches the law. One, David Farrar, posted a warning on his kiwiblog website to other users about contempt of court in the case.

Everyone else is breaching the orders, so surely I won't get in trouble?
No one seems sure what will happen next but it seems best not to test that theory. "Would you feel safe driving through a red light because hundreds of other people do that?" Mr Kleintjes said.

Professor Burrows says posting information on the Internet is a form of publication and people who posted suppressed information were liable "like anyone else".

Sharing juicy information with a friend via e-mail was more dangerous than verbal gossip because an e-mail left a trail of evidence.

"I think anyone who sends an e-mail now knows it may get to more than the person it was sent to."

Mr Farrar, who is also the vice-president of Internet society InternetNZ, says much information posted on the Internet is "fairly easy" to trace.

He wasn't confident that authorities would turn a blind eye to the breaches. "I think if the authorities don't take any action, it's going to send out a pretty bad signal."
So are suppression orders now pointless?

"I think there's almost no point in cases involving famous people," Mr Farrar says. "Perhaps for a week or so if you need to hold things up."

High Court judge Justice John Wild said last year that it was "stupid" and "futile" to try to keep information suppressed once it was on the Internet.

He made the comments while outlining his reasons for lifting a suppression order on the "Butcher Report" on the Berryman bridge collapse. Lawyer Rob Moodie had posted the report on the Internet to support his clients, retired farmers Keith and Margaret Berryman.

Law Commission deputy president Warren Young said this week it was "much too simplistic" to say that suppression orders were redundant just because the Internet had increased the number of breaches. "It is very difficult to control through the Internet . . . but that does not mean that they have no effect at all."

Professor Burrows says the issue has to be considered in the context of the number of orders made in the courts. "There's a whole lot of suppressions. The problem mainly arises if there's a celebrity or a really infamous case." If authorities were able to track an offender down, "it's certainly not pointless".

And despite all the fuss, many people did not care enough to go looking for the information. "I don't think most people can be bothered. Most aren't particularly interested."

Suppression breaches 'very serious'

The Dominion Post
Suppression breaches 'very serious'
08 April 2006

The justice system could be undermined if no action is taken against those who spread suppressed information about the Louise Nicholas case, the head of the Criminal Bar Association says.

Association president Peter Winter said the breaches were very serious. "It calls into question the rule of law and has the potential to undermine the justice system."

Groups in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch have handed out leaflets about the case. E-mails containing suppressed material have also been circulating.

They include information kept from the jury that acquitted Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards and former policemen Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton of 20 sex charges relating to Mrs Nicholas' allegations.

Mr Winter said the spread of suppressed information was unfair to the jurors in the trial and would be difficult for them to hear about.

"Those matters were deemed for good reason by the trial judge not to be matters which needed to be placed before the jury."

People who circulated such information often did not realise that suppression orders were made not just to protect the accused, but also the complainants.

Police are gathering information about breaches and the solicitor-general is considering the issue of contempt of court.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Suppression orders could be lifted - internet lawyer

Radio New Zealand
Suppression orders could be lifted - internet lawyer
Posted at 12:23pm on 7 Apr 2006

A Wellington barrister who specialises in internet law, says court suppression orders about the Louise Nicholas rape case could be lifted, because so many people are now aware of the suppressed information.

Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards and two former officers Bob Schollum and Bradley Shipton were last Friday found not guilty by an Auckland High Court jury on 20 rape and sexual assault charges.

Since then pamphlets, faxes and now emails containing information suppressed by the court, have been widely distributed.

Lawyers for Mr Shipton and Mr Schollom have written to police to ask them how they plan to deal with the situation.

But Internet law specialist, Peter Dengate-Thrush, says once the information is out there it is very difficult to get it back, and the view of the courts is that once it is in the public domain, they will not longer maintain suppression orders.

And he says because the information is being forwarded by personal email it could mean thousands of people would have to be prosecuted.

Police investigate but no action yet taken

Although police are investigating the possible breach of suppression orders; so far no action has been taken against those known to have handed out the pamphlets.

National's Justice Spokesperson, Richard Worth says that is not good enough; and that by not acting immediately, the Crown is encouraging people to continue spreading suppressed information.

Criminal Bar Association president, Peter Winter, says lawyers would support making an example of those who have spread the information.

Police are collating information about the matter and a legal opinion will be sought.

Contempt of court

The issue of contempt of court is being dealt with separately by the Solicitor-General's office.
The issue raises questions about the point of suppression orders in high profile cases - given that information spreads so easily via the internet.

Until this week; a suppression order prevented television presenter Lana Co-croft being identified in relation to a celebrity drug scandal last year in Auckland. But her name had already been spread via email and word of mouth since the scandal first broke.

The offence of breaching suppression orders carries a $1,000 maximum fine, and does not carry a term of imprisonment.

Contempt of court charges are far more serious: under Section 9 of the Crimes Act, there is no maximum sentence for the charge. This means anyone prosecuted for contempt in this case could face a prison term.

Nicholas suppression-order violators encourage others to join in

Nicholas suppression-order violators encourage others to join in

By Louisa Cleave

A Christchurch group involved in handing out pamphlets breaching suppression orders in the Louise Nicholas case hope there will be less chance of prosecution if more people spread the information.

Two sets of leaflets were handed out in Cathedral Square and outside the Christchurch central police station.

One contained information that was suppressed during the trial and another pledged support for Mrs Nicholas and a Wellington group who broke suppression orders this week.

Activist Frances Martin said those involved in the Christchurch leaflet drop were connected to the Wellington group.

Suppressed information was also handed out at University of Auckland on Wednesday. "We're in contact with [Wellington] and have been talking about the legal repercussions of it quite extensively," said Ms Martin.

"There was concern that handing out the suppressed information would have a negative impact for victims of rape so we were really concerned about that.

"But in the end we know the information is out in the public anyway, it's on the internet and easy to get hold of. We think the more people handing out the information the less likely there will be charges laid against the women doing it in Wellington."

People who breach suppression orders can be charged by police with breaching a suppression order but they can also face contempt charges if the judge who imposed the orders decides to take action.

The offence of breaching suppression orders carries a fine of $1000. A complaint has been lodged with police over the Wellington pamphlets but no one has yet been charged.

Ms Martin said the group did not hand out many pamphlets but there was "unbelievable" public support.

People had a choice of handing out the pamphlet without suppressed information, "because some people don't have time to be in court". Pamphlets also appeared to be circulating in Dunedin yesterday.

Email campaign spreads Nicholas case details

Email campaign spreads Nicholas case details
07.04.06 7.55am

An email delivered from a bogus address is spreading suppressed information from the Louise Nicholas rape case around the country.

The email is the latest in a campaign by protesters to highlight alleged injustices in the case. Pamphlets breaching suppression orders relating to the trial have already been distributed in Wellington and Auckland in support of Ms Nicholas.

Yesterday, they hit Christchurch. The email includes information that was kept from the jury that acquitted three men of 20 sex charges relating to Mrs Nicholas' allegations, The Dominion Post reported today.

Police Assistant Commissioner Clint Rickards and former policemen Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton were last week cleared of offences alleged to have occurred in Rotorua 20 years ago.

Barrister Peter Dengate Thrush, an internet law specialist, told the newspaper the bulk emailing of court-suppressed information was something he had never previously encountered.

He said current law governing breach of court order suppression was tailored towards media organisations, or individuals distributing leaflets.

"The question is how can the law adapt to apply to hundreds and thousands of small operators who download this information on the internet or forward bulk emails."

The email admits forwarding it would breach suppression orders and encourages recipients to do so in an untraceable way to "honour the bravery of Louise Nicholas".

Mr Thrush said people who received the email were not breaching the suppression order, but as soon as it was forwarded or printed, it constituted republication.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Evidence suppressed in rape trial turns up on campus

NZ Herald
Evidence suppressed in rape trial turns up on campus

By Elizabeth Binning

Suppression orders relating to the Louise Nicholas case have been breached again, this time in Auckland - just around the corner from where the high-profile rape case was heard.

Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards and former police officers Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton were last week cleared of the historic sexual allegations made by Ms Nicholas.

Yesterday morning, around 200 pamphlets, detailing information suppressed during the trial, were distributed at Auckland University.

Part of the pamphlet said: "This information is being disseminated in Wellington by a group of concerned women. I believe that they should be congratulated for their stance and that they should be supported."

The contents of the pamphlets were then debated on the university quad in front of about 80 students who voted to support the illegal distribution of the pamphlets earlier in the day as a "show of solidarity".

Political activist Nick Keesing, who organised the pamphlet drop, said he wanted to support the Wellington women who had distributed 1600 similar pamphlets on Monday.

The students also resolved to support the Wellington women's cause. They seemed unaware that those in Wellington have agreed to stop spreading suppressed information after being spoken to by police.

Authorities are already investigating the breach of suppression that occurred and breaches that have allegedly occurred on the internet and radio. Mr Schollum's lawyer Paul Mabey said news of yesterday's pamphlet drop increased his concern about the suppression breaches.

Auckland City Police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty said she was not aware of any complaints in relation to yesterday's pamphlet drop. Mr Keesing said he did not fear the repercussions of breaching suppression and would fight any such charges or fines in court.

Breaches of Nicholas case suppression spread further

Breaches of Nicholas case suppression spread further
06.04.06 1.00pm

More pamphlets breaching suppression orders relating to the Louise Nicholas police rape trial, are likely to be circulated in Christchurch today.

A third group has said it will follow protest action in Wellington earlier this week and in Auckland yesterday, and distribute pamphlets containing suppressed information.

Pamphlets were distributed in Wellington and Auckland in support of Rotorua woman Louise Nicholas, who claimed Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards and former police officers Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum raped and sexually abused her when she was an 18-year-old in Rotorua 20 years ago.

The three men were acquitted on all 20 charges by a jury of seven women and five men last week. Justice Tony Randerson imposed suppression orders relating to some evidence and issues relating to the case.

He also expressed his concern at apparent breaches of his suppression orders during the trial by material which appeared on the internet and asked for more details at another hearing within the next few weeks.

In Wellington earlier this week pamphlets containing suppressed information were circulated although they were later modified to remove some of the information after the women distributing them were approached by police.

At the University of Auckland yesterday, more pamphlets were circulated, also containing suppressed information before the issue was debated on the university quad by nearly 100 students who said they supported the Wellington women's cause.

A group of Christchurch women and men said today they would distribute pamphlets in Cathedral Square containing suppressed information. They said their action was in support of Louise Nicholas and the Wellington women.

The Christchurch group claimed justice was not served in the trial. People who breach suppression orders can be charged by police with breaching a suppression order but they can also face contempt charges if the judge who imposed the orders decides to take action.

A complaint has been lodged with police but no one has yet been charged.

It is believed the Solicitor-General Terence Arnold, QC, may also be involved. The Solicitor-General is considered the Government's principal legal adviser and a judge can raise an issue such as a breach of a suppression order, with him.

Lawyers for two of the three acquitted men would not comment today although Paul Mabey, QC, yesterday said the apparent breach of the suppression orders was a real concern.

The Auckland pamphlets were organised by political activist Nick Keesing who said he did not fear the repercussions of breaching the court orders and would fight charges in court.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

No more Nicholas fliers - for now

The Dominion Post
No more Nicholas fliers - for now
05 April 2006

A group of women under investigation by police and the solicitor-general for breaching court-ordered suppressions from the Louise Nicholas case have stopped distributing leaflets on legal advice.

The women, who handed out 1600 leaflets on Monday at Wellington railway station, took to Manners Mall yesterday with an amended leaflet.

They also protested with banners in central Wellington, saying they had been inundated with messages of support, some from rape victims.

The action was in support of Mrs Nicholas after Friday's acquittals of Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards and former policemen Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton on rape and sexual assault charges.

Group spokeswoman Grace Millar said the women met lawyers yesterday and had made an "interim decision" to stop distributing the pamphlets.

Ms Millar stressed it was not for fear of being prosecuted. Lawyers had advised them not to make police statements.

Group members were meeting last night to decide on their possible next move and were considering rewriting the leaflets.

"The advice generally is we probably won't be handing out any more fliers at the moment," Ms Millar said.

She said the suppressed information, which could not be presented during the 10-day Auckland trial, was already in the public domain.

The women – one of whom had a young child – were apprehensive about facing potential prison sentences, but believed Mrs Nicholas' allegations and were prepared for the consequences, Ms Millar said.

"We don't regret it. People keep asking me whether I'm prepared to go to prison.
"In the scale of things, it's not the worst thing that could happen in the world."

Detective Senior Sergeant Simon Perry said police had asked for a copy of the suppression orders from the trial at the High Court at Auckland and had one of the leaflets.

They were yet to speak to the group but planned to do so as part of the inquiry.

"We will be continuing to gather possible evidence and watch where, when and how the leaflets are being distributed, and who is involved in their distribution."

The penalty for breaching a suppression order is a fine of up to $1000. Contempt of court carries an open-ended penalty, which can include a fine or a jail term.

Rape trial inquiry extends to internet, radio

NZ Herald
Rape trial inquiry extends to internet, radio

By Angela Gregory

Authorities are investigating alleged breaches of suppression orders relating to the Louise Nicholas rape case - not just in pamphlets handed out by a Wellington vigilante group, but also on the internet and radio.

The breaches are causing concern in relation to the High Court trial which last week cleared Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards and former police officers Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton of historical sex allegations by Mrs Nicholas.

Mr Shipton's lawyer, Bill Nabney, confirmed he had laid complaints with the police over the actions of the Wellington group and other incidents involving the internet and radio broadcasts. "They are investigating."

The Herald yesterday viewed two internet sites which discussed matters under suppression orders, although by late afternoon the material was removed from one of those sites.

On Monday, about 1600 pamphlets containing suppressed material were handed out at the Wellington Railway Station and in Cuba Mall.

A spokeswoman for the distributors, Emma Wills, said the group had since decided to stop circulating the flyers after being spoken to by police.

Officers had given information which caused them to change their minds about carrying on, she said.

Ms Wills denied that showed they were reckless to have taken the action in the first place and said they would have just done things differently. "We had sought legal advice."

Instead the group was distributing a new leaflet which did not breach any suppression orders. Ms Wills said they had had only positive feedback from passersby, many of whom already knew what had been suppressed.

She thought it unlikely their action would lead to a contempt of court charge and possible jail.

Professor John Burrows, a media law specialist at Canterbury University, said whether a breach of a suppression order would lead to a charge of contempt of court was a complex question.
Breaches were usually accidental, he said, and even if deliberate were not necessarily evidence of contempt of court. That would depend on whether there were circumstances over and above the breach which showed contempt of the court process.

Mr Schollum's lawyer, Paul Mabey, QC, said he had referred the matter to the Solicitor-General as well as the police because the action of the Wellington group was a "flagrant breach" of the suppression order.

Wellington police said they were waiting for documents from the High Court at Auckland to help assess whether a breach had been committed.

Detective Senior Sergeant Simon Perry said he hoped to have them within the next few days. "Once we've received and studied the documents we'll have a better idea of what orders may have been breached and what action will follow."

The offence of breaching suppression orders carried a maximum fine of $1000 but not a jail term. "People can't be arrested for this but can be summonsed to appear before the court."

Mr Perry said the issue surrounding contempt of court was a separate one determined by the judiciary in consultation with the Solicitor-General.

A spokeswoman for the Solicitor-General yesterday confirmed he, too, was looking into the issues.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Nicholas case suppression orders breached in flyers

Nicholas case suppression orders breached in flyers

By Mike Houlahan

Information withheld from the jury considering the Louise Nicholas rape claim case and covered by court suppression orders has been handed to Wellington commuters and shoppers in a flyer distributed by a vigilante group.

Police are now investigating the flyer's distribution. On Friday, assistant police commissioner Clint Rickards and former police officers Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton were found not guilty of a range of historical sexual charges against Mrs Nicholas, after a high-profile trial in the High Court at Auckland.

Now a Wellington group is intent on retrying the case in the court of public opinion.

The group staged a protest at the Police College open day on Saturday, and yesterday stepped up their campaign by distributing hundreds of flyers to workers passing through Wellington Railway Station, and to shoppers in the busy Cuba Mall shopping area.

Group spokeswoman Emma Wills said they were well aware they were breaching suppression orders by distributing the flyer, headed "We Believe Louise Nicholas". "We are outraged at the way the trial went and obviously the fact that Louise Nicholas was punished for the fact that the jury didn't have access to all the information," Ms Wills said. "Some of us had access to this information earlier and we didn't hand it out during the Louise Nicholas trial because we believed there was still a possibility of the right verdict being reached, but we have seen exactly how it has worked for Louise Nicholas and we believe the information has to be out there now."

Lawyers for Mr Shipton and Mr Schollum both reacted angrily yesterday when told about the flyers. "I take it seriously and have referred it to the Solicitor-General and New Zealand police for further action," Schollum's lawyer Paul Mabey QC said.

Mr Shipton's lawyer, Bill Nabney said the breach of suppression orders was deliberate and serious. "The court makes suppression orders for good and valid reasons. They're not made lightly, and obviously this is of great concern. "

The police are the people who should investigate the matter and we will await the outcome of their inquiries and what they decide to do. We'll take it from there, once the police have ... made a decision."

Wellington police district commander, Superintendent Rob Pope, confirmed police were investigating the distribution of the flyer.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Nicholas rape case leaflet referred to police

Nicholas rape case leaflet referred to police


A leaflet about the Louise Nicholas rape trial, circulated in Wellington today, has been referred to the Solicitor-General and the police.

The leaflet was apparently handed out by four women at Wellington railway station and referred matters suppressed at the trial at which one serving and two former police officers were found not guilty of a variety of sexual offences against Mrs Nicholas in Rotorua 20 years ago.

The accused men were Assistant Commissioner Clint Rickards and former officers Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton who faced a three week jury trial in the High Court at Auckland.

Mr Schollum's lawyer, Paul Mabey, QC, said he had referred the leaflet to Solicitor-General Terence Arnold, QC, and the police. "It's in their hands," he said. "All I can do is bring it to their attention, which I have and they're the enforcement authorities.

It's up to them what they do." A spokeswoman for the Crown Law Office said the matter was one for the police. "It is a breach of a suppression order, which is a criminal offence," she said. She also suggested that Mr Mabey could go back to the court that imposed the suppression order. "It's a serious breach," she said.

The spokeswoman said she had heard the women had given out about 1600 leaflets so far.

No-one was available for comment from Wellington police.