Discover more from Webworm with David Farrier
The New Zealand Courts Have Officially Called Me Brave
To be more accurate the New Zealand courts have deemed me “non-vulnerable”, but I prefer “brave”.
This newsletter is so painfully specific to the New Zealand court system I am almost hesitant to write it, but I got something wrong so wanted to clear it up.
Back in March I wrote about how New Zealand broadcaster Sean Plunket had tweeted a bunch of documents from a Family Court case I’d been dragged into.
The case involved Michael Organ, a con man I’d made a documentary about. You can read the background here.
I was surprised Sean Plunket had done this. This is what I wrote at the time:
“Now the thing about Family Court proceedings is that they are notoriously confidential. All the names involved are heavily suppressed.
I’d go so far as to say violating suppression in Family Court cases is taken even more seriously than other courts in New Zealand.
Put this another way: as a journalist, you might be tempted to push suppression on a juicy court case — but when it comes to the Family Court you don’t dare push a fucking thing. Those names stay under lock and key.”
The New Zealand police seemed to agree, as the following month they charged Sean Plunket:
Today I wanted to clarify that I was completely wrong.
I have discovered I was wrong and incorrect, and that it is in fact perfectly fine to publish the details of any family court case, as long as the people you name are considered “not vulnerable”.
I found this out when police dropped the charges against Mr Plunket. I found this out when Sean tweeted about it.
Curious, I emailed the police to find out what had gone on. They seemed surprised too, writing:
“I am very sorry you have found out about this through Twitter. It is news to me.”
A few days later (yesterday), I got an email from a detective who I assume was in charge of it all:
“On the 25th of May 2023 I was informed that the defendant [Sean Plunket] was applying to dismiss the charge under section 147 of the criminal procedure act 2011.
His defense counsel indicated “the person allegedly identified was not a vulnerable person within the meaning of a s 11D Family Court Act 1980 and so his identity was not protected from publication”.
In the following weeks I attempted to get a statement from someone at the Whanganui Family Court in relation to making the complaint and get clarification around the definition of a vulnerable person in a Temporary protection Order.
After a number of enquiries I was informed by the Whanganui Family Court that the associated respondent [David Farrier] is not classified as a vulnerable person.
I passed this information on to our prosecution team who had conferred with our legal team who carried out further research into the definition of a vulnerable person under section 11D(h) Family Court Act 1980.
It was decided between our legal team and our prosecution team that you as an associated respondent would not be considered a vulnerable person.”
I’d been taught in journalism school and in my newsroom of 10 years that you couldn’t ever publish family court documents without permission from the judge, especially if you were naming those involved in the case.
I was wrong, and would like to apologise on behalf of Webworm.
If a con man hands you family court documents you can definitely publish them wherever you like, just make sure the person involved in the case is “not considered a vulnerable person”.
To be fair this is a big of an ego boost: I am officially not vulnerable. I take this to mean I am very very brave, much like beloved children’s book character Mr Brave:
Don’t worry if the non-vulnerable person had nothing to do with anything and was just dragged into a case that got dismissed.
Because the person is brave, they won’t mind getting messages like this all day long:
Again, all that is fine because the person receiving them is not vulnerable, they are brave!
To be clear: in New Zealand, identifying people who are named in Family Court documents is fine, so long as that person is “brave”.
This will be big news to many reporters in the New Zealand media, who have long exercised caution in reporting on the Family Court for fear of breaking the law.
To them I say, don’t worry anymore.
Go hog wild (in naming non-vulnerable and very brave people who are the victim of an elaborate plot by a con man). The gates have opened!
PS: It’s the last day for paying Webwormers (AKA Worms) to get free worldwide shipping on the Hannibal-inspired Webworm tee! So far the t-shirt (in black and white, fitted and unisex, XS - 5XL) is worming its way out to readers in New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong and Switzerland!