Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Libel in live debate

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The hard evidence to convict Ewen Macdonald for the murder of Scott Guy simply wasn't there.
Photo / NZ Herald
The hard evidence to convict Ewen Macdonald for the murder of Scott Guy simply wasn't there. Photo / NZ Herald

The Ewen Macdonald trial for the murder of Scott Guy has come to an end. Now what on earth will the nation talk about at morning tea?

This case transfixed the country. Just about everyone I know has been doing a Nancy Grace (the American TV legal commentator) and giving their views after each day of the trial.

Everyone had an opinion on what the verdict should be. That the jury found Macdonald not guilty came as no surprise to me - the hard evidence simply wasn't there to convict him.

But the verdict didn't stop social media, and some radio stations, from going berserk.

It was an absolute free-for-all and the comments were defamatory in the extreme.

That contempt for the law made some callers to NewsTalkZB wonder why they couldn't vent their spleens on our airwaves. It's because we have a larger audience and a reputation as a serious news organisation. That would be taken into account if we were sued and damages considered.

The rantings of a spotty loner who has five readers of his blog doesn't count for much. The ravings of a talkback host with a reputation as a shockjock on a station with fewer listeners than the all-Indian radio station in Auckland are, again, inconsequential, even if the comments are slanderous.

But a radio station with an audience of about half a million? That's another matter.

Still, you have to wonder why people such as David Bain and Christchurch's George Gwaze, and now Ewen Macdonald, don't take on some of the more vicious commentators.

The answer is that any civil action would be incredibly expensive and most people don't have the money. Also, many of those who have been through lengthy court trials never want to see the inside of a courtroom again.

Then there's the Oscar Wilde scenario. Wilde famously sued the Marquess of Queensbury for libel after he accused him of being a sodomite, which was illegal in England. The Marquess was able to produce rent boys who gave testimony against Wilde. He lost the case and the Crown charged him with homosexuality.

Defendants who have been found not guilty might choose not to tempt fate.

People can think what they like about the verdict but, in a legal sense, I can understand why they found Macdonald not guilty. I am hoping, however, that when he is sentenced for the grotesque vandalism and arson counts to which he has pleaded guilty, they throw the book at him. Fourteen years is the maximum for arson, that would be a good start. How could you do that to family?

US naval snub not playing the game

If the United States is going to ask our country to join a naval exercise off the coast of Hawaii for the first time in nearly 30 years, why exile us to a civilian dock when the other 20 countries have their ships berthed at the Pearl Harbour naval base?

It seems an unbelievably petty gesture from such a superpower, especially given that Japanese naval ships are berthed at Pearl Harbour, the harbour they did their utmost to destroy 70 years ago.

I understand the ram-ifications and consequences of withdrawing from Anzus with our no-nukes policy. I accept that the US will not regard us as an ally and we cannot expect to be a party to all their military war games.

But what's the point of inviting us to participate in manoeuvres if we're not seen as being on the same level as the other 20 countries?

Did they invite us merely for the satisfaction of delivering a snub? I find that hard to believe but what other explanation could there be?

Surely with our commitment to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we've proved our loyalty to the US.

Either treat us as one of the team or don't invite us to play.

It's all right on the night

For all my scoffing about the undercard fights on Thursday night, I was riveted.

Jaime Ridge went from wide-eyed kitten pre-fight to a wildcat in the ring and delivered a resounding defeat to that girl from The GC without smudging her mascara or getting a hair out of place.

Jesse Ryder fulfilled all predictions that he would put a plucky but outclassed Mark Watson on his butt; Joseph Parker confirmed his promise as the next big thing in boxing and Shane Cameron delivered a great knockout blow to Monte Barrett in the fourth round.

The fight night was a sellout; nobody lost an eye; the promoters didn't lose their shirts; and Shane Cameron reclaimed his WBO Asia Pacific and Oriental belts. A good night out for all.

* This column has been corrected from the print edition which referred to the Marquess of Queensbury as a 'she'.

- Herald on Sunday

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