Prominent media commentator Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater has been outed for an extra-marital affair by a court judgment this week.
The affair between Slater and Debbie Brown was revealed in an Auckland District Court judgment detailing a bitter fallout between Brown and her former friend Jacqueline Sperling. Both women have been linked to shock-jock Michael Laws: Sperling is a former girlfriend and Brown is a woman he was seen out with.
Brown and her friend, lawyer Madeleine Flannagan, had applied for restraining orders against Sperling under the Harassment Act. They complained Sperling had made numerous hurtful and distressing internet posts about them.
But in a lengthy written decision on Friday, Judge David Harvey dismissed their application. He said Brown had contributed to her own distress and had admitted to having made a number of unfortunate choices.
"One of them was to have an affair with a married man. That man was Cameron Slater."
The short affair was around the end of 2010 and ended when Slater spent a Christmas holiday with his wife and family. Brown had then told Slater's wife of the affair.
"Given the nature of the blogging community, this information was not going to remain a secret. Ms Brown could hardly expect that she would not be 'talked about' having had an affair with one of New Zealand's highest profile bloggers," Judge Harvey wrote.
Judge Harvey said Brown may have been distressed but that was not directly because of Sperling's posts. Rather, it was from her own engagement with the internet and blogosphere and by accessing Sperling's blog.
Flannagan, too, engaged with Sperling online and was in her "sights".
In his decision, Judge Harvey urged Sperling to "leave Ms Brown and Ms Flannagan alone". "It would not be advantageous to anyone to trumpet the outcome of this case across the blogosphere."
Sperling told the Herald on Sunday the outcome was "awesome". "I had thought I was going to lose because I did not get a lawyer and fight it. I am so grateful that I got a judge that is an expert in that area and took the time to make a quality decision," she said.
Last night, Madeleine Flannagan said she was "reasonably happy" with the judgment.
"While we did not get a restraining order, Judge Harvey found Ms Sperling had committed harassment against us. He accepted our version of events, almost without exception, and dismissed Ms Sperling's public claims about the case as false. I feel vindicated if nothing else."
Flannagan said the decision set a precedent on cyber-bullying and she was sure more cases would follow.
Cameron Slater said he was aware of the judgment and its content but declined to comment.