David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Suppression complaint in Ian Wishart's Sounds Murders book

Ian Wishart, New Zealand journalist, author and publisher. Photo / Greg Bowker
Ian Wishart, New Zealand journalist, author and publisher. Photo / Greg Bowker

A police investigation is underway into alleged breaches of name suppression by author Ian Wishart in his recent book on the Scott Watson case.

The complaint by Watson's dad Chris Watson, made this week with Blenheim police, claims Mr Wishart included the names of three witnesses whose details were suppressed at the 1999 murder trial.

Name suppression is a court-ordered protection of identity which forbids the use of identifying details of evidence or people drawn into the judicial process.

In his letter to police, Chris Watson alleged breaches in Elementary, the book Mr Wishart published earlier this year on the murders of Olivia Hope and Ben Smart who went missing on New Year's Day in 1998.

Scott Watson was convicted of the murders but has maintained his innocence since being sentenced to a minimum 17 years in prison.

Mr Wishart's book stated Watson was guilty and was based on police information released through the court's discovery process, including evidence not produced at trial.

Watson said he reviewed the books and was surprised to see it contained the names of people he knew had been granted name suppression.

"I've scrupulously obeyed the law for over 18 years (since Scott Watson became a focus of police inquiries) and I don't see why anybody else should be exempt."

Watson has previously raised questions over suppression - the last occasion was after a speech on the case by Paul Davison QC (now a High Court judge) was put online by another party and included the names of people whose identities had been suppressed.

On that occasion, the speech was taken down.

"Paul Davison had the good graces to withdrawn his - I wonder if Mr Wishart has the same," said Watson.

Mr Wishart dismissed the complaint, saying he did not believe he had breached suppression because the information he relied on existed outside the court process.

"The High Court can suppress everything that is given it for the purpose of court reporting but it can't suppress the universe. If you're doing a story that's not reporting the court proceedings, it's not an issue of suppression."

He said it also had to be considered why the suppression order was initially granted because the reasons for it might no longer be relevant.

An emailed statement from police headquarters confirmed a complaint had been received.

"This is currently being investigated by Marlborough Police. We are unable to comment further while the investigation is underway."

- NZ Herald

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