19 Jul 2013

Defence chief happy with admission during trial

3:00 pm on 19 July 2013

The head of the Defence Force says he is happy with his admission during a defamation trial that freelance journalist Jon Stephenson had visited a base in Afghanistan.

Mr Stephenson took Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones and the Defence Force to the High Court in Wellington because he said an army media release responding to an article he wrote about the visit implied that he had lied about it.

The case ended in a hung jury on Thursday night and it is not yet known whether a re-trial will be held.

Mr Stephenson's article claimed New Zealand forces in Afghanistan were complicit in handing over detainees to authorities who used torture.

Lieutenant-General Jones said those claims were the reason the Defence Force defended the case.

Mr Stephenson said the case could have been avoided if they had responded to a request to retract a media release.

It is likely he will seek a re-trial. Mr Stephenson told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Friday he will make that decision next week.

He said the concession by Lieutenant-General Jones puts him in a strong position to win the case, should it go to trial again, because the facts are not in dispute.