Thursday, April 28, 2005

An analysis of the Doone Case

More details have come out about why Peter Doone plans to sue Helen Clark.

The nub of the case is that Helen Clark had confirmed to the Sunday Star Times that Peter Doone had reportedly said "that won't be necessary" when the invesitigating officer asked to give his girlfriend (now wife) an alcohol breathtest. Since the statement didn't turn up in Robinson's report, the investigating officer didn't allege that Peter had said it and so it seems to have been false scuttlebutt. There are really two issues here that have been mixed together:
a) Did the allegation cause Peter to lose his job

b) the ethics of Helen's confirmation of the allegation.
The first issue can almost certainly be answered in the negative. Peter Doone was forced to resign not because of the allegation but because of the Robinson report. Although the allegation was defamatory, it did not cause the loss that he claims. If he is awarded any damages, it may be much less than he expected.

As for the second issue, what was Helen thinking? She has been caught out confirming an untrue allegation to get it published. If she was mistaken, why didn't she clear it up before now? It's worthwhile bearing in mind the standards that she elaborated in the case of Lianne Dalziel. Was her confirmation "misleading" or was it "untrue"? If the former, can she supply the text of her confirmation so we can be certain? If the latter, will she be sacking herself?