Monday, November 09, 2015

The cost of defending the indefensible

Last month the NZDF settled a four-year defamation case brought by investigative journalist Jon Stephenson, admitting that they lied to damage his reputation. So how much did it cost them to defend the indefensible? Over $600,000:

How many taxpayer-funded lawyers does it take to fight a journalist?

In the case of the defamation action brought against the New Zealand Defence Force by war reporter Jon Stephenson, the answer is 15.

In response to an Official Information request by the Herald, the Defence Force revealed it used 12 lawyers - including six senior practitioners - from the Government's legal arm, Crown Law, plus three external barristers.

In total it spent $643,000 defending itself, of which $468,000 was spent on the external barristers.

And once you factor in the cost of the confidential settlement (which may have included paying Stephenson's legal fees as well), we're looking at anywhere from three-quarters of a million to one and a half million dollars. And all because the NZDF attempted to undermine a factual story by lying to damage a journalist's reputation.

That's a very expensive "mistake", not to mention a complete waste of public money. And the people at NZDF who made it need to be held accountable for it.