18 Jun 2011

Magazine feels vindicated by Weatherston ruling

8:40 am on 18 June 2011

The Listener magazine says its decision to publish two articles on the defence of provocation during the trial of Clayton Weatherston has been vindicated.

Weatherston - convicted in 2009 of the murder of his former girlfriend, Sophie Elliott - claimed he was provoked and therefore should only have been found guilty of manslaughter.

That form of defence was subsequently abolished by Parliament.

On appeal, Weatherston's lawyers argued he did not have a fair trial because of media stories at the time calling for reform of the law. The lawyers said this undermined the defence of provocation to the extent that the trial should have been aborted.

The Court of Appeal has unanimously rejected that argument and dismissed all grounds of the appeal. It found that statements made in the media did not render the trial unfair.

The Listener's acting editor, Joanne Black, says the magazine was very careful not to reference the Weatherston trial in its articles on provocation.

"The judgment says that even if a juror had read the Listener articles," Ms Black says, "the articles' tone was, and I quote, balanced and cerebral.

"Frankly we consider that's probably better than a journalism award, coming from Court of Appeal judges."