Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 16. 1972
Following the recent warrant served by the Police to search my premises based on an allegation that I may have been responsible for a criminal libel under Section 211 of the Crimes Act I have investigated the matter to the best of my ability I am now satisfied that an unfortunate journalistic error occured, namely a case of mistaken identity between two individuals of the same name and similar background living in the same town. As the public is probably aware these things sometimes happen even among the more widely circulated publications. Although I have not received any request for an apology or correction from the individual concerned I unreservedly give such an apology on my own initiative. I sincerely regret any personal embarrassment which may have occured and am taking steps to publish a full explanation and apology in the next issue of Cock.
I am concerned that the Police have treated this as a case of criminal libel rather than seeing the ordinary processes of civil law invoked. It is three months since the issue complained of was published and I am only sorry that this matter was not brought to my attention sooner to have enabled me to take the necessary remedial steps such as recalling copies of my magazine unsold at the time from my agents. These steps are now being taken."
Cock's withdrawal comes at a time of renewed public interest in the necessity of the present libel laws. Even the larger N.Z. dailies have been criticising the law since the Brooks v Muldoon case and significantly N.Z Herald owners Wilson and Horton Ltd have weighed into the debate with a statement from no lesser man than their chairman of directors, Mr. M.A. Pattison: " .....in recent year the law of defamation has tended to become so restrictive, so punitive, and so ready to see damage where in fact, little or no damage may have resulted, that our basic freedom of expression has been put in some danger."
Victoria University's Law Prof Geoffrey Palmer commenting in the Dominion July 8, on past libel cases involving politicians in New Zealand has said "The law of defamation as it is developed in New Zealand serves to dampen down public debate. It tends to keep things quiet, which may be what the politicians want but is not necessarly in the public interest. There is nothing free, uninhibited and robust about freedom of expression in New Zealand." In the light of these comments it will be interesting to see how Cock fares.