Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Slater faces probe over court breach allegation

Cameron Slater could face prosecution. Photo / Doug Sherring
Cameron Slater could face prosecution. Photo / Doug Sherring

Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater is being investigated by police for an alleged suppression breach that could jeopardise a high-profile extradition case.

The case is subject to a sweeping suppression order imposed last year by a judge to "ensure the integrity of trial".

Justice Minister Judith Collins has the final say on whether extradition should be granted.

When Slater's online posting, which appears to breach the court order, was raised with Ms Collins' office, she refused to comment.

"The granting and monitoring of suppression orders is a matter for the courts. It would be inappropriate for the minister to comment," a spokeswoman for her office said.

When the issue was raised with Courts Minister Chester Borrows, he took a similar view.

"I understand that you received a response on this matter from the office of Judith Collins. Minister Borrows supports those remarks and has nothing further to add," a spokesman said.

The alleged breach was brought to the attention of the crown prosecutor acting as counsel for the country seeking extradition. He forwarded the issue straight to police.

Yesterday Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald, Canterbury district investigations manager, confirmed that Whale Oil's apparent breach was being investigated.

"It's gone to one of my DIs [detective inspectors] who will be looking at it," he said.

The Weekend Herald has elected not to publish details of the case that Whale Oil referred to in the blog.

The blog ran a photo of the alleged offender despite the suppression order that granted image protection to the offender, who is awaiting news on whether he or she will be extradited to face charges in another country.

The blog also included other information which the media had been banned from publishing.

A later blog on Whale Oil also appears contrary to the court order.

Slater last night said he was unaware of the suppression order.

"[We] have not been approached by police about this, but were approached by police in Auckland about another one, which we immediately took down. I will be taking these ones down now that I am aware.

"This continues to highlight the problems with suppression orders, and the rather odious way with which criminals use them to hide from their disgusting crimes."

If prosecuted, Slater could face a fine of $25,000 or six months in prison.

The Privacy Commission has recently claimed Slater breached the privacy of businessman Matt Blomfield after publishing dozens of posts on Whale Oil based on a computer hard drive he obtained.

It passed the case to the office of the Director of Human Rights Proceedings, which is now prosecuting him over five days in October.

Mr Blomfield is also suing Slater for defamation with a full hearing expected next year.

A High Court decision is pending in the case on whether Slater is a journalist - a status he is seeking in the belief it will allow him to withhold information about his sources.

Slater won best blog this year at the country's premier journalism awards, the Canon Media Awards.

- additional reporting David Fisher


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