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Bob Jones withdraws his High Court defamation case against Māori filmmaker

bob-jones
Photo: RNZ / Charlotte Cook

Report from RNZ
Sir Bob Jones has withdrawn his defamation case against Renae Maihi, who set up a petition after he wrote an article which suggested Māori should be grateful to Pākehā for existing.

The Lower Hutt property investor had been suing Maihi for defaming him by calling him a racist and saying he is an author of hate speech. Sir Robert’s lawyer Fletcher Pilditch today said the case had been discontinued.

Renae Maihi spoke in the High Court in Wellington yesterday about how denigrated she felt by his article – which was removed from the NBR website days after it was published due to “inappropriate content”.

“It identified my entire race and suggested they should become servants for a day for Pākehā,” she said. “Regardless of whether the suggestion was made seriously, I found the imagery of servitude and slavery that the column evoked, to be offensive and racist.”

Cross-examination of Maihi had been expected to continue today, to be followed later in the trial by lawyer and Treaty of Waitangi expert Dr Moana Jackson to discuss racism and hate-speech.

Statement from Sir Bob Jones
“I have today discontinued my proceedings against Ms Maihi. I also understand Ms Maihi intends to take down her petition against me. I filed these proceedings because I was deeply offended by Ms Maihi’s allegations. I am not a racist. I now accept, however, Ms Maihi’s offence taking was a sincerely held opinion. The parties may never align on what is acceptable humour, however, no malice was intended by either, thus it is sensible to put an end to proceedings.”

Renae Maihi welcomes end to defamation case

Report from RNZ – February 13
Tears flowed as the filmmaker being sued by Sir Robert Jones talked about how denigrated she felt by his column which suggested Māori should be grateful to Pākehā for existing.

Renae Maihi took the witness stand on day four of the trial in the High Court in Wellington today, to defend her petition where she called for Sir Robert’s knighthood to be revoked, and – according to the counsel for Sir Robert – defamed him by calling him a racist, and saying he was an author of hate speech.

In the column – which was removed from the NBR website days after it was published due to “inappropriate content” – Sir Robert said Māori should bring Pākehā breakfast in bed, out of gratefulness for existing, and that not a single Maori would have been alive today if it wasn’t for “Brits”.

Maihi was overcome with emotion when telling the Wellington High Court how she felt reading Sir Robert’s column.

“It identified my entire race and suggested they should become servants for a day for Pākehā. Regardless of whether the suggestion was made seriously, I found the imagery of servitude and slavery that the column evoked, to be offensive and racist.”

Maihi said, while she accepted that Sir Robert didn’t literally expect Māori to bring Pākehā breakfast in bed, it still upset and angered her.

“The idea that someone would ridicule, belittle, disrespect and denigrate my son, my ancestors, my friends, my whānau, my people is unacceptable to me.”

She detailed multiple instances where she’d experienced racism, including being “terrorised” by her mother’s Pākehā partner, who cut the strings on her guitar because she was playing a Māori song, and being racially taunted at school when she was 10.

Maihi said Sir Robert “does not have the mana befitting a knighthood”.

Her lawyer Davey Salmon was using the defences of truth, honest opinion, and qualified privilege to defend the case. He said Maihi does not accept her petition damaged Sir Robert’s reputation, because it is already generally bad, based on his publicly expressed views on Māori and other ethnic groups.

“It is clear in the light of day, applying 2020 norms and even before we come to expert evidence on the nuances and precise limits and delineations of racism and hate-speech, that what was said by Sir Robert in the early days, could not probably be said now without immediately being described as racist.”

The courtroom was packed again, with the judge having to stop proceedings on more than one occasion so more seats could be found for members of the public.

After the court was adjourned for the day, Maihi was given a round of applause from people in the public gallery and a wahine stood and sang a waiata to Maihi.

The cross-examination of Maihi will continue tomorrow. Lawyer and Treaty of Waitangi expert Dr Moana Jackson is expected to take the stand to discuss racism and hate-speech later in the trial.

Earlier: Bob Jones gives evidence

The Spinoff: Leonie Hayden writes about the hearing

6 comments:

  1. Tim Jones, 14. February 2020, 11:02

    Great news!! Now I’d like to see the Court direct Bob Jones to pay all Renae Maihi’s costs. Not sure what happens re costs when a case is withdrawn – does anyone else know? [via twitter]

     
  2. Russell Brown, 14. February 2020, 11:18

    Bob Jones has discontinued his spiteful defamation action against Renae Maihi. She is very welcome to keep my contribution to her crowdfund to make a film or just do something nice for herself. [via twitter]

     
  3. Kara, 14. February 2020, 17:38

    Kia Kaha Renae. You have sent Bob Jones scuttling because he knew he could never win.

     
  4. Alf the Aspirational Apteryx, 14. February 2020, 20:27

    There were no winners in this case. New Zealand is an increasingly intolerant country.

     
  5. David Slack, 15. February 2020, 8:37

    An honourable knight of the realm would pay the costs wouldn’t he? [via twitter]

     
  6. Gaylene Preston, 15. February 2020, 11:02

    We had to listen to ugly rhetoric from the litigant and his friends telling us what a great guy he is for nearly four days. Renae Maihi spoke clearly, eloquently and without name calling for less than an hour. [via Facebook]