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Study Shows Little Interest By News Media In Family Court Proceedings

Filed under: General — UF @ 1:31 pm Tue 3rd April 2007

Press Release by Families Commission at 11:32 am, 03 Apr 2007

The Family Court was opened to the news media almost two years ago in a move designed to open the court to the public gaze. However a study on the results shows that journalists have barely parted the curtains.


The Families Commission has just released a study funded by its Blue Skies Fund, The Family Court, Families and the Public Gaze by Canterbury University researchers Ursula Cheer, John Caldwell and Jim Tully.


“The intent behind opening up the Family Court, with certain restrictions, was to promote public understanding and transparency in the face of a public perception of secrecy and bias,” Ms Cheer said.


The researchers examined the results of the first year following the change, looking at media reports and the new environment, and surveyed judges and journalists.


“Judges generally were disappointed by the lack of interest shown by the media and felt that reporters were more interested in the views of people who were dissatisfied rather than in the Court itself,” said Ms Cheer.


Over the year, there were just 101 articles published on Family Court cases and many dealt with the new reporting regime itself. Only a few looked at individual cases.


Some media did not consider Family Court cases newsworthy or felt uneasy reporting the cases. However, the study also revealed that media were hampered by practical limitations such as lack of personnel and time to cover cases.


The report suggests that the media could take more advantage of the new openness to assist public understanding of the work of the Court. However they would be assisted in this if plans for opening the Court more fully were brought to fruition.


For a copy of the report visit


  1. Hi Guys a little off the topic, but some light relief.

    Software User laments:

    Last year I upgraded from Girlfriend 7.0 to Wife 1.0 .
    I soon noticed that the new program began unexpected child processing
    that took up a lot of space and valuable resources.

    In addition, Wife 1.0 installed itself into all other programs and now
    monitors all other system activity.

    Applications such as Poker Night 10.3 , Football 5.0 , Hunting and
    Fishing 7.5, and Racing 3.6 I can’t seem to keep Wife 1.0 in the
    background while attempting to run my favourite applications. I’m
    thinking about going back to Girlfriend 7.0, but the uninstall doesn’t
    work on Wife 1.0 . Please help!
    A Troubled User.



    Dear Troubled User:

    This is a very common problem that men complain about.

    Many people upgrade from Girlfriend 7.0 to Wife 1.0, thinking that it is just a Utilities and Entertainment program.

    Wife 1.0 is an OPERATING SYSTEM and is designed by its Creator to run EVERYTHING !!!

    It is also impossible to delete Wife 1. 0 and to return to Girlfriend 7.0 .
    It is impossible to uninstall, or purge the program files from the system once installed.

    You cannot go back to Girlfriend 7.0 because Wife 1.0 is designed to not allow this.

    Look in your Wife 1.0 manual under Warnings – Alimony-Child Support.

    I recommend that you keep Wife1.0 and work on improving the situation.

    I suggest installing the background application “Yes Dear” to alleviate software augmentation.
    The best course of action is to enter the command C:\APOLOGIZE
    because ultimately you will have to give the APOLOGIZE command before the system will return to normal anyway.

    Wife 1.0 is a great program, but it tends to be very high maintenance

    Wife 1.0 comes with several support programs, such as Clean and Sweep 3.0 , Cook It 1.5 and Do Bills 4.2 .

    However, be very careful how you use these programs. Improper use will cause the system to launch the program Nag Nag 9.5 . Once this
    happens, the only way to improve the performance of Wife 1.0 is to purchase additional software. I recommend Flowers 2.1 and Diamonds 5.0 !

    WARNING!!! DO NOT , under any circumstances, install Secretary with Short Skirt 3.3 . This application is not supported by Wife 1.0 and will cause irreversible damage to the operating system .

    Best of luck,
    Tech Support
    CK Yeap

    Comment by Paula — Tue 3rd April 2007 @ 4:59 pm

  2. The post that this comment is attached to, expresses judges surprise, that media have not taken much interest in reporting familycaught hearings.
    Judges comments are given in the Families Commission report.
    Profit-media have been somewhat hamstrung in reporting a hearing, by not having copies of applications and affidavits. This leaves them with insufficient information to be able to confidently appreciate what is going on. As a result, theri attendance at court is pretty much a waste of time.
    To let you see another face of this same situation, below is a media application and the resulting High Court judgement from Justice Barragwannath. This will partly illustrate why the profit-media doesn’t want to spend much time looking into familycaught operation.
    The case at issue, involves the intimate and salacious details of parking ticket appeals.
    I stand by my view that the public and both parties should have access to a complete recording of a hearing, except in exceptional cases, where such would prejudice a fair trial or where there are unusual privacy considerations, perhaps for other affected parties. I see Justice Baragwannath’s concerns as protecting judges, from public scrutiny and careful review scrutiny by both parties. As I see it, it will only be by good public access to court hearings, that these processes will eventually be improved.

    My submission was:
    I am requesting permission to video-record this parking ticket appeal hearing, because it is an unusual in that a public body is prosecuting a private individual, who is willing for the hearing to be recorded.
    I am concerned for Mr. Candy’s reputation, particularly in view that he is pitting his skills against experienced counsel, representing ACC, which has much larger resources behind it, than available to Mr. Candy.
    The issues are of public interest, as public resources are being used in the prosecution of Mr. Candy and it is an issue that is relevant to most members of the public.
    I do not see the risks to Mr. Candy as being large. If they were, I would be very unlikely to be involved in filming such a hearing.
    Being practical, I don’t see this going beyond me providing a DVD to Mr. Candy. The main potential interest, I would see as being for Mr. Candy’s own review and from students in Mr. Passmore (ACC Counsel) and Justice Barragwannath’s profession, rather than public interest.
    If judges are concerned to protect themselves from rebroadcast, then the only risk of rebroadcast, with a large audience, lies through existing major media. These organisations have been subject to these reporting restrictions for many years and are experienced at working within them. The courts have levers which work effectively on these large financial organisations. I am subject to these same levers.
    I have previously recorded a hearing in Waitakere District Court, before Judge Philip Recordon, who allowed sound only recording of a breach of protection order hearing. (Judge Recordon accepted that there might be public interest and was willing to allow the recording to be in the control of the defendant (not Mr. Candy), without conditions on public release. This hearing was later invalidated, due to actions of a previous judge, but that isn’t a significant issue as regards public access to a recording.)
    The courts are well protected from misleading edited versions being released, in that I have promised to make publicly available the complete, unedited original DVD (less any accidental filming of prohibited items, such as counsel notes and jurors faces). Thus any misleading edited form can be readily compared (by any member of the public, or courts) to the essentially unedited original. If this is insufficient protection, the courts have access to redress under defamation.
    This case is relatively unusual, in that the issues of protection of the appellant are relatively minor, the other party is a public body whose actions should be public and publicly accessible and that the appellant has agreed to filming.
    Therefore, this hearing offers relatively rare opportunity for the production of educational material for the public.


    To the Registrar,
    High Court Auckland

    1. We request permission to film for release on Digital Video Disc (DVD) the following proceedings:
    Case name Candy versus Auckland City Council
    Number 2005-404-420 to 425
    Scheduled start date 10th August 2006 10 am.
    2. We wish to cover the appeal
    3. Expected dates of coverage There are no plans for broadcast. The footage will be released for sale unedited, except for deletions required by judge, not less than one week after the close of hearing.
    4. [In the case of television or radio] Name of programme or programmes in which the film or recording may be used There are no plans for broadcast. The footage will be released for sale unedited, except for deletions required by judge, not less than one week after the close of hearing.

    5. The following conditions of coverage should apply: (a) the standard conditions
    6. (a) This application was not filed in accordance with guideline 5(3) because I have only become aware of this hearing in the past two days.
    (b) This application, although filed out of time, should nonetheless be granted because this DVD communication will allow review by the participants and also allow members of the public who were not present to appreciate the hearing process.

    Applicant information:

    Applicant’s name Murray Charles Bacon
    Business and Postal address 34 Valley Road Mount Eden Auckland
    Telephone number3 (027) 4959636

    Signed __________________________________________

    Date __________________________________________



    1. There will be only one camera, with microphone. No lighting will be used.
    Only one camera may be situated in the court room, regardless of how many people are given authority to film for television. In the event there is a dispute between those authorised to film for television as to whose camera will be situated in the court room, the Judge will rule.

    2. The television camera must be situated in a position approved by the Judge.

    3. There will not be any people additional to the cameraman.
    Any person wishing to instruct the camera operator during a court session must sit next to the camera operator and must give any instructions as unobtrusively as possible and in such a manner as not to interfere in any way with the running of the trial.

    4. While the Judge is sitting in court for chambers or in closed court, no filming must take place.

    5. Judge only trial, I understand.
    No juror may be deliberately filmed and no broadcast may show the jury or any member of it.

    6. Members of the public attending the trial or a view must not be filmed in the courtroom or in the course of the view.

    7. If any such should occur, it would be edited out. It is unlikely that any such view of papers would be readable, due to distance from camera.
    Counsel’s papers must not be filmed.

    8. Exhibits must not be filmed without leave of the Judge.

    9. Subject to any protection granted to the accused as a witness under guideline 11, the accused may be filmed only:

    (a) when giving evidence; or
    (b) when sitting in the dock, for the first 15 minutes of any sitting day, except when, during that period, a verdict is being taken or a sentencing is underway; or
    (c) at any time during the trial, including the time when the jury is taking a view or delivering its verdict, if the accused consents in writing through his or her counsel and the Judge does not prohibit such filming; or
    (d) during sentencing, if the Judge grants leave.

    10. No filming may take place in court when the Judge is not present, except with prior leave of the Judge.

    11. The media applicant and representatives of the media applicant must at all times conduct themselves in court appropriately.

    12. Film taken must not be broadcast on television until at least 10 minutes have elapsed. Will not be broadcast.

    13. Despite paragraph 12, film taken may be broadcast live or at any time:

    (a) if the trial is an appeal; or
    (b) on the taking of a jury’s verdict; or
    (c) on a sentencing; or
    (d) if the Judge grants leave.

    14. The media applicant must maintain a copy of all broadcasts using film taken in court or at a view and must supply a copy to the court if requested by the Judge. Will not be broadcast.

    15. Film taken must not be used, while the trial continues, other than in the programme nominated in the application form. Will not be broadcast.

    16. Film taken must not be used in any promotional broadcasts or as trailers.

    CRI-2005-404-420 – 425
    Hearing: 7 August 2006 (by telephone)
    Counsel: Appellant in person
    0 J Passmore for Respondent
    Applicant in person
    Judgment: 8 August 2006 at 4.50 pm
    This judgment was delivered by Justice Barragwanath on 8 August 2006 at 4.50 pm
    pursuant to Rule 540(4) of itligh Court Rules
    T…._____ Regirtrai-/Re Rygistrar
    Date l’ °b.
    Simpson Grierson, Auckland
    Copy to:
    Mr A F Candy, Auckland
    Mr M C Bacon, Auckland
    CANDY V AUCKLAND CITY COUNCIL HC AK CRI-2005-404-420 – 425 [8 August 2006]
    [1] Mr Bacon applies for permission to film for release on Digital Video Disc
    Mr Candy’s appeal against the decision of Justices to impose a parking fine on
    Mr Candy for an amount which he contends exceeds the statutory limit.
    [2] There has been previous litigation between Mr Candy and the Council which
    has gone as far as the Court of Appeal and in which Mr Candy has enjoyed a
    significant measure of success. It has attracted television and newspaper coverage.
    [3] Mr Bacon advised that he represents Sound Design Projectors Limited, the
    business of which is to take films which are then recorded on DVD and sold to the
    public. His application states that the film taken will not be broadcast, which is a
    reference to his own intention. He does not however rule out the prospect of sales to
    other interests which may make broadcasts.
    [4] In opposition to the application Mr Passmore submitted that the application
    was made out of time. Further, while Guideline 9(3)(a) of the In-Court Media
    Coverage Guidelines 2003 provides that a Judge may have regard to the principles
    set out in Guideline 2 stating the purpose of the guidelines, the application did not
    promote any of the purposes. Nor was the application made by a member of the
    media. In Sagapolu v Commonwealth Securities Limited (2002) 16 PRNZ 191,
    followed by Associate Judge Lang as he then was in Siemer v Fardell HC AK
    CIV-2003-404-5782 14 June 2005, the Court held that the protocol applies only to
    “normal news programmes”. Guideline 9(3)(b) provides that the Judge may have
    regard to the media applicant’s standing as a media organisation and Mr Bacon does
    not qualify. Neither Mr Bacon nor his company will be bound by any formal or
    informal controls over media organisations. Finally, the application appeared to be
    promoted by Mr Candy who endorsed and was said to have served the application on
    the respondent.
    [5] Mr Bacon accepted my formulation of his contentions as being:
    a) he is a part, albeit a small part, of the media;
    b) the public interest in open justice would be promoted by granting the
    c) the fact that interests other than the major media companies were not
    represented when the media guidelines were drafted does not relieve
    the Court from considering on its merits any application for media
    [6] Mr Bacon would be prepared to accept conditions to protect the public
    interest in fair and balanced reporting by undertaking:
    a) that the recording would be provided only to authorised media;
    b) that as a condition of sale he would require such media to apply to the
    Court under the guidelines before broadcasting the programme.
    [7] Mr Candy supported Mr Bacon’s submissions.
    [8] I was impressed by Mr Bacon’s principled approach to the application and
    his submissions with much of which I agree. There are two broad issues, one of
    precedent and the other of evaluation.
    [9] Guideline 2 provides:
    2. Purpose
    (1) These guidelines are intended to ensure that applications for
    in-court media coverage are dealt with expeditiously and
    fairly and that so far as possible like cases are treated alike.
    (2) In making decisions and exercising discretions under these
    guidelines, the court may have regard to the following
    (a) the need for a fair trial;
    (b) the desirability of open justice;
    (c) the principle that the media have an important role in
    the reporting of trials as the eyes and ears of the
    (d) the importance of fair and balanced reporting of
    (e) court obligations to the victims of offences;
    (1) the interests and reasonable concerns and
    perceptions of victims and witnesses.
    [10] The public interest that “so far as possible like cases are treated alike” places
    a premium on avoiding decisions inconsistent with the policy of the guidelines. It is
    undesirable that cases should be decided differently according to the fortuity of
    which Judge happens to receive the application.
    [11] Great care has been taken by judicial and media personnel to create the
    guidelines. They balance the competing public interests of (in the present case) the
    desirability of open justice and the role of the media as the eyes and ears of the
    public against the importance of fair and balanced reporting of trials. The judgment
    in Sagapolu is distinguishable as turning on the May 2000 guidelines which contain
    the criterion of “normal news programme” which was held not to be met by the
    Fair Go programme the subject of the application. That criterion has not been
    reproduced in the 2003 guidelines which are expressed in more general terms.
    [12] The guidelines cover the paradigm cases of conventional television, radio and
    print journalism. It does not at all follow that either now or in the future media
    coverage will be confined to the major players. There may very well be room for
    niche operations to play a part in the process of opening the operation of the courts to
    the community. The advantages of that course were stated by Jeremy Bentham in
    The advantages of publicity are neither inconsiderable nor unobvious. In the
    character of a security, it operates in the first place on the deponent and, in a
    way not less important… upon the Judge.’
    [13] In R v Wharewaka (2005) 21 CRNZ 1008 the principle was stated:
    The need for assurance of justice to the accused, to the victims and the
    community can only be met by public audit of how the courts exercise the
    great powers they receive in order to discharge heavy responsibilities. It has
    been expressed in the precept that a judge while judging is himself on trial.
    That has been the approach of the highest courts in New Zealand as well as other
    [14] So I would respectfully doubt Mr Passmore’s general argument that an
    application which does not fall squarely within the guidelines is therefore excluded
    from permission to record court proceedings.
    [15] Nor does it matter that a party to the litigation has procured the application.
    What matters is whether it has merit.
    [16] But the fact that an applicant does not fall within the guidelines risks an
    inconsistency of decisionmaking and is therefore to be considered with particular
    [17] The particular risk in the present case is that the reporting will not be fair and
    balanced. The courts have always maintained tight control over reporting. While
    ‘ Rationale of Judicial Evidence (vol 1) (London Hart & Clarke) p 522.
    W D Baragwanath J
    some of the reasons expressed in 2(2) have no application in this case, that of fair
    and of ensuring balanced reporting does. If the application were granted the Court
    would effectively be delegating its task of determining who might broadcast the
    programme and to ensure balance. Potential purchasers of the disc might include
    interests lacking both the knowledge and discipline of the accredited media, in
    relation to which the guidelines have refrained from granting carte blanche.
    The requirement that the name of the programme or programmes be stated (in the
    case of television or radio) lends force to Mr Passmore’s argument that the greater
    the precision from the paradigm of conventional media the greater the care required
    of the Court in considering and appraising the application. Here such precision is
    impossible because the identity of any potential broadcaster and the nature of any
    broadcast is simply unknown.
    [18] The approach underlining the media guidelines is that the Court’s own
    control will be relaxed only where problems of security and accountability are
    avoided by specific watertight controls. These conventionally include carefully
    crafted personal undertakings to the Court by the broadcaster which can be enforced
    if necessary by contempt proceedings. These are not available.
    [19] The disadvantage of permitting filming on the conditions which Mr Bacon
    would accept is that there could be problems of security within his operation which
    might allow the DVD to get into unauthorised or irresponsible hands.
    [20] For these reasons, despite the attractive way in which his application was
    presented, I must decline Mr Bacon’s application, which is dismissed.

    Comment by MurrayBacon — Mon 9th April 2007 @ 11:05 pm

  3. I believe that in general, any litigant or member of the public, should be able to purchase, at a nominal cost (eg free internet download), a complete audio recording of a court hearing.
    Nevada is moving in this direction, at present for bankruptcy court:
    How do I obtain a copy of the recording of a court hearing?
    NEVADA BANKRUPTCY COURT has gone Digital. Copies of digital audio recorded court hearings may now be obtained on a Compact Disk with the data playable on a computer. Your computer must have a CD drive, a sound card, and Internet access.

    When you order a copy of a court record in CD format, you will be provided with instructions on how to download Free Software from the Internet which will enable your computer to play the digital audio recording of the requested court hearing.

    We feel that you will be quite pleased with the quality of the digital audio recorded sound playback, and that after you try the CD format, you will agree that the CD product is far superior to the cassette tape recordings. However, should you prefer cassette tapes, we also can provide a copy of the court hearing record in this format.

    Up to eight hours of a hearing held on one date can be provided on one CD. Up to Ninety (90) minutes of a hearing held on one date can be provided on one cassette tape. The cost of either one CD or one cassette tape is $26.00 each..

    For additional information on how to order a CD digital audio recording or cassette tape recording, you may call the Electronic Court Recording Department at 702-388-6587 in Las Vegas, and 775-784-5023 x3114 in Reno.
    NZ doesn’t have to remain in the legal “dark ages”. Measures such as this, should overall reduce the cost of running courts. By holding back from open democracy, we incur increased costs in running our courts, in addition to poorer quality service from them.

    Comment by MurrayBacon — Tue 10th April 2007 @ 9:04 am

  4. Thanks for providing more Bacon information to the World! Praise B!(acon)

    Comment by Reverend Tex B. Acon — Tue 31st March 2009 @ 5:37 pm

  5. What this really says is that the FC is disappointed that they have not been able to effectively manipulate the laws to launch a PR exercise through the news media.

    Comment by Dave — Thu 22nd October 2009 @ 3:59 pm

  6. UK judges are cautious about allowing TV cameramen into their caughts. They quote NZ as a warning, of what openness can result in. NZ Law Society president Jonathon Temm says media access isn’t causing problems in NZ.

    This could be taken two ways:

    1. That open media access in NZ is so constrained and regulated by judges, that it isn’t causing problems, or
    2. That NZ doesn’t have effective open access to media anyway.

    I guess in practical terms, they both mean the same thing, just on paper it looks as if NZ might have open media access to caughts.

    Bay of Plenty lawyer and former Law Society president Jonathan Temm said his issue was the way television media sensationalised court proceedings.

    “Look at the [Clayton] Weatherston trial in Christchurch. Seeing his face on our evening news night after night, showing in a minute and a half what was five hours of evidence with a voice-over by a reporter full of adjectives.

    “Or Antoine Dixon – every time you talk about that man all we ever recall is the crazy-eyed guy in the dock. Television just portrays an image that it wants to convey to its public.

    “There are murder trials going on every single week in New Zealand, but the television media select which ones they are going to give priority to. They choose those ones and then they drive their own agenda,” he said.

    New Zealand’s courts gave cameras unprecedented access, and it did not work, Mr Temm said.

    “New Zealand has been an experiment and it has failed.”

    Mr Temm said he would support unedited, live-streaming of court proceedings, like that of parliamentary coverage.

    Alan Candy appealed to high caught about an illegal traffic ticket and I applied to film that hearing. Judge Barragwannath refused to allow filming, on exactly the basis that lawyer Paul Temm said should be the only acceptable basis! I clearly agree with the approach taken by Jonathon Temm. In practical terms, most NZ citizens find it expensive and difficult to attend any given trial. These restrictions unnecesarily reduce the ability of citizens to monitor the quality of performance and cost effectiveness of the caughts system, which as taxpayers and citizens they need to ensure the best quality of performance.

    It all looks so self protective by legal workers, quite against the public interest.

    Just for your entertainment. The real message is don’t take the caughts too seriously, or you will do yourself a mischief!


    Comment by Murray Bacon — Thu 19th September 2013 @ 9:46 pm

  7. Catriona MacLennan: Cameras keep courts an open book

    5:30 AM Friday Apr 4, 20147 comments
    Justice System Opinion
    Review of system that’s caused no major concerns over fairness and justice should not clamp down on coverage.
    More than 200,000 people a day are tuning into a dedicated South African television channel providing 24-hour coverage of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. The case is the first time live cameras have been allowed inside a criminal courtroom in South Africa and saturation coverage is being provided both there and around the world.

    Details of the case are gripping the Rainbow Nation’s 51 million citizens to such an extent that school children are reportedly discussing blood splatter patterns at the dinner table. Crime writer Margie Orford has described the spectacle as “Kardashians meet OJ Simpson”.

    But the trial is not theatre, a movie or a whodunnit. It is about accountability for the tragic death of a young woman brutally killed in her prime.

    So how does the legal system balance the public interest in open justice against the privacy of a grieving family and the right of a defendant to a fair trial – particularly in the age of blogs and a 24-hour news cycle?

    It’s not only South Africa which is grappling with these issues. Debates about media court coverage are also taking place in Australia, Canada, Britain and other countries.

    New Zealand’s discussion about whether changes are needed to the rules governing the broadcasting of court proceedings was sparked by then-New Zealand Law Society president Jonathan Temm in a speech in September 2012. Mr Temm criticised the media’s coverage of trials and said much public debate engendered by the reporting of the Clayton Weatherston, Ewen Macdonald and Chris Kahui murder trials had been both ill-informed and misinformed.

    Particular public discomfort was caused by televised footage of family members appearing as witnesses in the Macdonald trial. Who could fail to respond to the distress of the family members and to query the justification for such intrusive pictures ?

    However, what most people probably didn’t realise was that members of the Guy family and other witnesses have an absolute right to be protected from such coverage. Clause 11 of the In-Court Media Coverage Guidelines 2012 states that witness protection is available as of right to any witness who seeks it, apart from the accused or official witnesses.

    Comment by MurrayBacon — Mon 7th April 2014 @ 10:18 pm

  8. I take it that Ms MacLennan supports openess and cameras in the Family Court as well?

    Comment by Allan Harvey — Mon 7th April 2014 @ 10:41 pm

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