An attempt by the blogger Cameron Slater to use a journalist's legal protection for sources has failed.

The case came after the High Court told the Whaleoil blogger he qualified as a "journalist" but couldn't hide sources for a series of blog posts about a businessman using a journalist's legal protection because of the nature of the posts.

The case involves defamation proceedings taken by business Matthew Blomfield over blog posts made by Slater in 2012. High Court Justice Raynor Asher had ruled there was a "public interest" in the sources being identified as there was no public interest in coverage of Blomfield's affairs and because of the "extreme and vindictive" nature of the disclosures. He also found the claim for journalistic source protection weakened because "the documents disclosed by the sources appeared to have been obtained illegitimately".

The Court of Appeal has now rejected arguments by Slater that new evidence should overturn Justice Asher's ruling and allow him to engage source protection rules for journalists in the Evidence Act.

Advertisement

Slater argued he had new evidence showing his informants were at risk from Blomfield, also arguing the hard drive from which he had drawn source material was not gained illegally.

While some of Slater's new evidence was ruled out as hearsay, the judges heard other evidence including that of a phone call made to Blomfield by a former business association who was now known to Slater.

A transcript of the phonecall had been produced by Slater, saying it showed "veiled threats" from Blomfield. When the appeal judges asked for examples, Slater selected a sample including one comment in which Blomfield was quoted saying: "All I wanted to do was make it clear to you that I am not going to do anything mean to you." The Court of Appeal judges said they did not believe the comments were threatening.

The judgment revealed the phone conversation had been made by Blomfield's former business colleague to Blomfield, and recorded without his knowledge by self-styled justice campaigner Dermot Nottingham, an "associate" of Slater.

The judges also dismissed Slater's claim Blomfield had acted in an intimidating way against one of those believed to have supplied information for the blog posts. The judgment said Blomfield had successfully sought the restraining order against businessman Marc Spring over a series of "aggressive and abusive" text messages he had been sent.

Slater said Blomfield seeking a restraining order on text messages which pre-dated Justice Asher's decision was contrary to an assurance Blomfield had given saying "no witness was at risk". The appeal judges dismissed the claim as unconvincing.

On the issue of the hard drive, Slater had attempted to put into evidence a letter from the Independent Police Conduct Authority which stated the hard drive had been found "to have never been stolen" The judges ruled it as inadmissible hearsay.

Slater was ordered to pay Blomfield costs.

Advertisement