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'Vendetta' - Cameron Slater ordered to pay $475,000 to Matthew Blomfield

Author
George Block,
Publish Date
Wed, 21 Feb 2024, 2:01pm
Blogger Cameron Slater, who is now on alternative radio network Reality Check Radio.
Blogger Cameron Slater, who is now on alternative radio network Reality Check Radio.

'Vendetta' - Cameron Slater ordered to pay $475,000 to Matthew Blomfield

Author
George Block,
Publish Date
Wed, 21 Feb 2024, 2:01pm

Former Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater has been ordered to pay $475,000 to businessman Matthew Blomfield after losing one of the country’s longest-running defamation cases. 

In an excoriating High Court judgment released on Wednesday, Justice David Johnstone concluded Slater had facilitated a personal vendetta against Blomfield by using stolen documents to produce defamatory blog posts. 

Justice Johnstone ordered Slater and his defunct company Social Media Consultants Ltd to pay nearly half a million dollars to Blomfeld, who first launched the defamation proceedings 11 years ago. 

The judge concluded Slater, via posts on his Whale Oil blog, acted in “flagrant disregard” of Blomfield’s rights. 

Slater made a series of blog posts in 2012 accusing the businessman of illegal and immoral behaviour. 

Justice Johnstone observed Slater was bankrupted nearly five years ago and Social Media Consultants was placed into liquidation. 

“The case has since remained on foot primarily for the purpose of offering Mr Blomfield, if proven, some level of personal vindication. 

“That vindication now resides in the award of compensatory damages”. 

Blogger Cameron Slater, who is now on alternative radio network Reality Check Radio.Blogger Cameron Slater, who is now on alternative radio network Reality Check Radio. 

The judgment said Slater had based his blog posts on material left in an office by Blomfield, who complained to police the blogger was using stolen property to produce the articles. 

Justice Johnstone said he was not aware of Whale Oil ever complying with a court order to identify the person who had given him the stolen material. 

When making that order, Justice Raynor Asher said Whale Oil obtained the materials illegally and the unlawful disclosure was driven by a personal vendetta. 

“In light of the evidence put before me, including in particular the nature of the posts themselves, I have no difficulty finding that to be the case, and that Whale Oil knew it,” Justice Johnstone said in his judgment. 

“Further, the way in which the posts misrepresented the material establishes that Whale Oil chose to facilitate that personal vendetta by way of its defamatory post series, on occasions knowing its allegations to be false, and on others being at least reckless as to their falsity.” 

Businessman Matthew Blomfield, whose 12-year legal battle against blogger Cameron Slater has concluded with an award of nearly half a million dollars. Photo / Doug SherringBusinessman Matthew Blomfield, whose 12-year legal battle against blogger Cameron Slater has concluded with an award of nearly half a million dollars. Photo / Doug Sherring 

Blomfield, speaking to the Herald after the judgment’s release, said he was pleased two High Court Judges now agreed the material Slater used was stolen. 

While he did not believe there was any chance of him seeing a cent of the damages awarded, he was happy with the outcome of the judgment. 

“It’s one of the largest defamation awards in New Zealand history, so that’s a good result,” he said. 

“It’s a shame that it has taken 12 years.” 

Because of Slater’s bankruptcy and the liquidation of his company, Justice Johnstone declined to award punitive damages or costs in addition to the compensatory damages, saying there did not seem any point given they wouldn’t be paid. 

Blomfield believed that showed the award would have been even higher if Slater had not been bankrupt. 

The insolvency register shows Slater was discharged as a bankrupt in 2022, at which time the register listed his employment status as “unemployed - no benefit”. 

Blomfield said he would consider revisiting a police complaint regarding the stolen documents given two High Court Judges had now agreed they were unlawfully obtained. 

He said given the time and cost involved in pursuing the defamation case, he would find it hard to recommend that course of action to others. 

Blomfield said he would not have been able to pursue the case without what he described as the incredible support of Wellington barrister Felix Geiringer. 

The Herald has sought comment from Slater. 

George Block is an Auckland-based reporter with a focus on police, the courts, prisons and defence. He joined the Herald in 2022 and has previously worked at Stuff in Auckland and the Otago Daily Times in Dunedin. 

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