Case Number: 854

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2001

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Letters to the Editor, Closure, Non-Publication

Bryan Varey of Hatfield’s Beach complained about non-publication of a letter to the editor of the New Zealand Herald. He contended that, because a letter from him making the same points had been published in the Sunday Star Times of 30 September 2001, there could be no “reason” for non-publication in the Herald.

Mr Varey had argued in his letter offered for publication that there was a difference between describing a person as a “convicted murderer,” and as having been “convicted for the murder of…”. The newspaper, in a report on the David Bain case, had failed to make that distinction. He believed that his letter should be published in the interest of fair-mindedness. The Editor-in-Chief of the Herald stood by the right of an editor to reject letters for publication. Moreover, he contended that it had been valid for the newspaper to refer to David Bain as a “convicted murderer” since the Evidence Amendment Act, 1980, provides that “a conviction for an offence is sufficient evidence in the absence of proof to the contrary that the person committed the offence”.

The Press Council has consistently upheld the right of editors to determine the content of their ‘Letters to the Editor’ and public opinion columns. Publication in one newspaper establishes no precedent for another. The complaint is not upheld.

People with complaints against a newspaper should first complain in writing to the editor of the publication and then, if not satisfied with the response, complain to the Press Council. Complaints should be addressed to the Secretary, P O Box 10 879 The Terrace, Wellington. Tel 473 5220. Information about the Press Council is available on the internet at www.