Auckland businessman Vince Siemer has today criticised a decision to clear Chief Justice Sian Elias to determine his appeal arising from a dispute with Michael Stiassny. Mr Siemer has been involved in lengthy dispute with Mr Stiassny who chairs the board of infrastructure company Vector, of which her husband Hugh Fletcher is a member.
Mr Fletcher receives about $100,000 a year in director's fees from Vector and, a Supreme Court hearing at Wellington was told on Friday that Dame Sian had disclosed the link between her husband and Mr Stiassny prior to the hearing tomorrow . Mr Siemer said tonight that "the issue was of significant public interest.- "its the defense of a fundamental right to freedom of expression , the first and last trench of democracy"
The solicitor-general is defending the matter after Mr Siemer was found guilty of contempt for refusing to promise not to publish material critical of Mr Stiassny. Mr Siemer is facing up to six months in jail and said today that; "there was a misconception in the media that he'd ignored a lawful order of the court, when in fact he had agreed to remove proven falsehoods after the court ordered the sites removed and shut down unconditionally."
Mr Siemer's lawyer, Robert Lithgow, QC, told the two judges at the hearing on Friday that the court should be concerned what a fair-minded and objective observer could think if they opened a newspaper and saw that the chief justice's husband was in business with Mr Siemer's "enemy".
Nevertheless judges Peter Blanchard and John McGrath dismissed the application to have Chief Justice stand aside from the hearing, criticising the lack of evidence about the link between Mr Fletcher and Mr Stiassny, saying they would give reasons later.