TVNZ breached code with 'wife beater' claims

By airing unsubstantiated allegations that Gisborne soccer player Scott Hales was a wife-beater and a racist, TVNZ's Close Up programme has been found to have breached broadcasting standards.

Broadcasting Standards Authority chairwoman Joanne Morris ordered TVNZ pay costs of $5000 and broadcast a statement during Close Up within the next month outlining the findings.

The item which screened on April 13 last year, described Hales as a "long-term overstayer with a UK conviction for fighting".

The reporter interviewed Mr Hales' ex-wife Wendy Naden, who had been married to him for eight months.

She alleged he was a "wife-beater" who had assaulted her on a number of occasions.

Her father, Laurie Naden, a former police officer, backed the allegations.

Ms Naden also alleged that Hales was racist, saying he would refer to "F... Pakis" back home in England, and wanted to move to an area of Gisborne where there were fewer Maori.

The Close Up item said Mr Hales had two convictions in England for "battery" and that he did not declare them when he entered New Zealand.

Beleaguered former Immigration New Zealand head Mary Anne Thompson confirmed on the programme Mr Hales should have declared the convictions, and did not.

This was "completely untrue", Mr Hales said. A copy of his immigration form since supplied to the Broadcasting Standards Authority showed he had declared a conviction for common assault before arrival here.

Ms Thompson has since acknowledged that her comments were "inaccurate".

Mr Naden contacted Immigration New Zealand with his concerns after Hales separated from his daughter.

Hales said Close Up had taken part in a "malicious attempt" to stop him being granted permanent residency in New Zealand.

He appealed to Immigration New Zealand with the support of three politicians - National East Coast MP Anne Tolley, Labour MP Moana Mackey, and Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon - and his deportation was put on hold.

TVNZ said that reasonable efforts were made to get Mr Hales' side of the story, but that he had refused to be interviewed.

The reporter had corroborated Ms Naden's allegations by talking to her father and two eyewitnesses to one of the alleged incidents.

It had also relied on a Family Violence Report recording of a domestic violence incident by Ms Naden.

Through a complaint to TVNZ, Mr Hales denied the "highly damaging and false accusations" made by his ex-wife.

When confronted by a reporter and cameraman at his home, Mr Hales said he had refused to comment and referred them to his lawyer.

When contacted by Close Up, his lawyer told the reporter the allegations were untrue.

"We are now in the most extraordinary position where people who allege domestic violence or abuse of any sort can simply go on television and name the alleged offender, have him filmed, and have their comments, which are untested in law, broadcast to the nation," Mr Hales said in his complaint.

The authority found in Mr Hales' favour, saying that TVNZ had breached standards relating to accuracy and fairness.

There was insufficient independent evidence sought to corroborate the allegations made by Ms Naden, the authority said.

- NZPA

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