Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler


The Teapot Moan Scandal Ends; or Who will Broadcast the Teapot Tape?

Journalist Bradley Ambrose and Prime Minister John Key have settled Ambrose's defamation proceedings against Key. Ambrose had recorded a conversation between Key and then-ACT leader candidate John Banks, and Key essentially accused Ambrose of committing a crime by making the recording.

The following joint statement was released:

An agreed statement between Key and Ambrose reads:

"In the days following the meeting between Hon John Banks and Rt Hon John Key at the Urban Café in Newmarket on the 11th of November 2011, Mr Key made a number of comments in the media to the effect that Mr Ambrose had deliberately recorded the conversation between Mr Key and Mr Banks, and compared Mr Ambrose's conduct to the News of the World.

"These comments caused harm to Mr Ambrose personally and professionally.

"The comments reflected Mr Key's honestly held views at that time.

"Mr Key and Mr Ambrose have met to discuss the events of that day.  Mr Key now accepts that Mr Ambrose did not deliberately record the conversation, or otherwise behave improperly.

"Mr Ambrose now accepts that Mr Key believed that the conversation had been deliberately recorded at the time Mr Key made his statements.

"The proceeding relating to these statements has been settled."

(via Stuff)

Although we don't know John Banks' current view on this matter, the PM has now publicly stated that he accepts that Bradley Ambrose did not deliberately record the so-called Teapot Tape. This is important. If the recording of the conversation was not deliberate, then no crime was committed when the recording was made. In particular, there can have been no breach of s 216B of the Crimes Act, as that offence can only be committed if the person making the recording made it intentionally.

And if no crime was committed in making the recording, then no crime will be committed by a news organisation which has a copy of it making it available.

Now, other privacy obligations still apply, so if the tape includes truly private material which there is no public interest in disseminating, then media making that material public might face a broadcasting standards complaint, or a civil claim, so such material should be left out, but beyond that, there appears to have been a public interest in the release of at least some of the material that was recorded, so I look forward to someone airing it tonight.

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