David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Judge 'lacked courtesy' in clearing court

Crowds of media and supporters of Kim Dotcom led to Judge David McNaughton clearing the court. Photo / Richard Robinson
Crowds of media and supporters of Kim Dotcom led to Judge David McNaughton clearing the court. Photo / Richard Robinson

Judges have been reminded of the importance of open courts after two journalists were told to leave a hearing into the Kim Dotcom case.

The action by Judge David McNaughton in the North Shore District Court lacked the courtesy, patience and tolerance expected, Judicial Conduct Commissioner Sir David Gascoigne has ruled.

The ruling followed complaints by journalists on the Herald On Sunday and the National Business Review that they were ordered to leave the court.

The clash came during a January bail hearing for Dotcom, who faces extradition to the United States on charges of criminal copyright violation.

Crowds of media and supporters of Dotcom led to Judge McNaughton clearing the court while he dealt with the normal court appearances.

The NBR journalist was among those cleared. He said Judge McNaughton had refused to explain his reasons and court staff were bearing down on him.

The Herald On Sunday journalist said he was told to leave when he later tried to enter the court. Again, he said he faced being physically removed.

Judge McNaughton rejected the claims, saying he had made a request, although he conceded he could have offered an explanation at the time.

Sir David said it was not possible to rule with certainty what had occurred but believed the judge had acted too quickly and without the opportunity for discussion.

He said he had made allowances for it being "an unusual and highly charged situation" - one which should have resulted in a display of greater tolerance by the judge.

Judge McNaughton's behaviour was "significantly less courteous, patient and tolerant than may reasonably have been expected of a judge".

Sir David said he would refer his finding to Chief District Court Judge, Jan-Marie Doogue. He said it could be a chance to reinforce to judges "the significance of the courts being open to the media and public generally".

- NZ Herald

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