Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Teapot costs bid dropped

Bradley Ambrose. Photo / APN
Bradley Ambrose. Photo / APN

The Attorney-General has ditched plans to demand nearly $14,000 in court costs from freelance photographer Bradley Ambrose over the long-running "teapot tape" saga.

Ambrose was embroiled in controversy and faced criminal investigation after he taped a conversation between Prime Minister John Key and Act Epsom candidate John Banks at an Auckland cafe just before the November election last year.

He said it was accidental but Key said the recording was illegal and laid a complaint with police.

Ambrose went to the High Court to ask for the conversation to be declared public. This was rejected and was followed by a memorandum filed in the Auckland High Court seeking $13,669 in costs.

But on Wednesday, Crown Law Office spokeswoman Jan Fulstow confirmed the order had been withdrawn by the Attorney-General.

The decision was prompted by the police decision on March 26 not to lay charges against Ambrose.

At that time, Assistant Police Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said investigators had concluded the recording was more likely than not to have been deliberate.

Fulstow said the move was also prompted by "the public interest in bringing the matter to a close".

Ambrose said he was "relieved", but indicated he could not have paid anyway.

A spokeswoman for Key said:

"It's a decision for the Solicitor-General and any questions should be directed to him."

The application for costs, and their withdrawal, was made in the Attorney-General's name, but day-to-day litigation decisions are made by the Solicitor-General.

Political commentator Bryce Edwards said the decision was "a pragmatic political decision to back down".

"It's not one made on a matter of principle or logic."

It was ironic hearing the news on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, Edwards said.

"It was an issue of press freedom and the ability of journalists to go about their work. The initial decision would have impinged on that."

Ambrose said his lawyers were still deciding whether to take defamation action against Key for saying Ambrose broke the law. He is also still waiting for police to return $1000 worth of recording gear, despite repeated requests.

Auckland police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty said police expected to contact Ambrose last week but, as of Friday afternoon, he had not heard from them.

Ambrose said he lost "tens of thousands" of dollars as work dried up during the scandal.

He was "pretty much back on track" with work but he would probably have moved to Australia if not for his children.

"I became completely disillusioned with the people running the country. And that's coming from someone who's been a National voter for 18 years."

cherie.howie@hos.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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