TVNZ, Fairfax NZ Ltd, NZME Publishing Ltd v Andrew Knox [2017] NZDC 3329

Published 09 March 2017

Application for access to exhibit — taser camera footage — Criminal Procedure Rules 2012, rr 6.6 & 6.10 — Television New Zealand v Rogers [2008] 2 NZLR 277 (SC) — TVWorks NZ Ltd v Parsons [2009] NZAR 198 (HC). Access to taser footage was granted subject to seven conditions including that: footage may be used by the applicants in any news publication but otherwise cannot be used without the leave of a Judge; person's faces in the footage are to be obscured so they can not be identified; the applicants may not provide or make the footage available to any other person or body without the leave of a Judge; and access is limited to the footage produced as exhibits at trial. The footage related to the trial of some of the police members involved in an incident where a taser, pepper spray and police dogs were used in an attempt to take into custody Gregory McPeake, whose death at the scene was captured on the taser video. Mr McPeake had committed a serious assault on his father and made threats to his brother and parents. The issue following the trial and subsequent acquittal of the police members, was whether the applicants should be granted access to the taser footage shown as an exhibit in the trial. Matters to be taken into consideration in an access application under r 6.6 are set out in r 6.10. With the trial completed there were no issues relating to a fair trial or fair administration of justice, of relevance were the privacy interests of the victims and respondents, open justice and freedom of information. The Crown submitted that public interest factors were outweighed by the high privacy interests of the victims, who strongly opposed the application, release may pre-empt police enquiries and may impact on operational effectiveness of tasers and police dogs. The applicants submitted there was considerable public interest relating to police resourcing, use of deadly force and weapons and that informed public debate was to the benefit of all NZ society. The Judge concluded after having regard to the Rules and previous authorities, that "the individual interest of those family members who oppose the release of the taser footage must give way to the public interest" in this case. Submissions that releasing the taser footage would adversely impact police operational effectiveness and may unfairly pre-empt internal investigations were not accepted. Judgment Date: 1 March 2017.