A blogger described as "malicious and nasty" has narrowly avoided prison after breaching suppression orders in a prominent Auckland court case and leading a prolonged campaign of criminal harassment against five people, including a former MP.
Dermot Gregory Nottingham was sentenced to 12 months' home detention and 100 hours' community work today in the Auckland District Court, after what Judge Jonathan Down described as a blatant and contemptuous breach of court orders and an arrogant view of right and wrong.
A jury found Nottingham guilty of five criminal harassment charges and two breaches of court suppression orders following a trial, in which Nottingham represented himself, during April and May.
Nottingham, a justice advocate who has been involved in defamation proceedings, developed a public profile in the 1990s after exposing odometer tampering on imported cars.
In 2003, he also faced a possible contempt of court charge after publishing a video online of a High Court judge's driving offence while it was before the courts.
The High Court suppression orders Nottingham breached were made for the Stephen Eruwera Dudley manslaughter case.
Stephen died aged 15 on June 6, 2013 after he was punched repeatedly by two teenage brothers at a West Auckland rugby field.
The brothers were initially charged with manslaughter but after medical examinations revealed an undiagnosed heart condition in Stephen, the Crown withdrew the charge - saying it could not be determined whether the assault contributed to his death.
In 2014, the brothers pleaded guilty to assault, were discharged without conviction and granted permanent name suppression by the High Court.
Just days later, Nottingham wrote his blogs naming the two brothers and publishing photos of them alongside details of the case.
Nottingham said of the breach: "It would seem odd to be punished for supplying information to an overseas website about two killers that received no punishment."
The Herald has chosen not to name the blog site which published Nottingham's posts because the offending content remains online.
As a result of Nottingham's disregard for the court's order, a police detective began investigating the website and found "several campaigns of harassment".
Some of the five people identified as potential victims had gone to police but were told officers could do nothing, the court heard.
Nottingham's harassment against his victims, all of whom have permanent name suppression, took place between 2011 and 2015 - the year he was charged.
The blogger's targets included business people, civil servants, and a former Member of Parliament.
Photos were taken of them and their homes and the allegations published online falsely claimed drug abuse and corruption.
Nottingham also made a veiled violent threat against one victim and wrote "two shots to be sure" alongside the person's name.
One of the victims said they had been stalked and photographed, with their images appearing on the blog page.
"I was hyper vigilant and wary, especially at night knowing Nottingham knew where we lived," they said.
Brian Dickey, Auckland's crown solicitor, said Nottingham's harassment was at the high end of the criminal spectrum, calling it "so malicious, so nasty".
The prosecutor said the offending articles remained on the internet and are displayed prominently when the victims' names are entered into a Google search.
"He shows absolutely no insight into his offending, no remorse."
Dickey said the breach of the suppression orders were an "attack on the High Court".
Nottingham had, in part, argued a prison sentence would be manifestly excessive due to his health complications, some of which saw him hospitalised for a week during the trial.
However, Dickey attempted to rebut the claims by arguing Nottingham's health would improve if he lost some weight.
Dickey also strongly opposed home detention and sought a sentence of up to four years imprisonment.
Nottingham said he never intended to threaten the safety of his victims, but Dickey was concerned he would now simply use someone else's computer or phone to continue his harassment.
"And our business with Mr Nottingham will continue," Dickey told Judge Down.
Nottingham tried to ague at trial that his "articles" were covered by freedom of expression rights.
"People have different opinions about what is said in articles," he said today. "The articles contained words that the jury found offensive ... I'm not a bully."
However, Judge Down said the right to free speech or freedom of expression is not a paramount right.
Nottingham, nonetheless, stood by his blogs and said his words remained true and would survive a defamation trial.
He also blamed his victims and said, "if they had been honest ... none of this would have occurred".
Judge Down said bloggers "seem to feel that they are not bound by moral codes of conduct" and engage and take a habitually aggressive approach.
The judge said the "unique" case showed Nottingham had an abrasive and combative approach to others.
"Mr Nottingham is unlikely to accept what he did was not only unlawful but reprehensible," he said.
Nottingham has indicated he will appeal the jury's verdicts, while Dickey told the Herald a potential appeal of the sentence would be a decision for the Crown Law Office.