Chris didn’t blackmail IAG or anybody else connected with this case! It is another example of the way IAG work!
He issued a case in the High Court based on their fabrication of evidence, if you view the FABRICATION page you will see that is beyond dispute. He had a website running at the time recording every event and lie they told.
Without legal assistance Chris did make a simple mistake, he found precedents in the UK which he understood applied in the NZ Courts. In those cases Punitive damages had been awarded at a level equal to the value of the claims illegally repudiated the insurance company. In his Statement of Claim he added up the amount currently due under the policies at just over $3M and added $3M punitive damages to the claim. He was totally unaware that the largest amount of punitive damages ever awarded up to 2013 in the NZ Courts was $50,000 this, obviously makes NZ a safe country for insurance companies to employ the DELAY, DENY, DEFEND strategy.
With no defence filed against the case, he prepared a Settlement Offer detailing the evidence on the website and trying to reach an acceptable settlement to all. They twisted it saying it was blackmail.
It wasn’t, since all the data what they claimed was being threatened to be disclosed had already been disclosed on the website which had steady traffic.
Justice Wylie gave a ruling on the case stating it could be blackmail IF Chris was guilty of the Arson, which was fair really. Judge Heath, who sat on the Supreme Court at the time, extended that ruling to state that if Chris was NOT Guilty of the Arson then it could not be blackmail.
The Arson and Blackmail cases were legally linked by these rulings. The Blackmail case was continuously adjourned awaiting the result of the Arson case following the rulings. The blackmail should have been discharged days after Chris was acquitted of Arson!
Basically, he had every right to chase IAG for payment by any means if he was owed the claim which he was. Judge Heath linked the two cases, combining them proved difficult due to them being in different levels of the Court, District and High Courts.
When Chris was acquitted in the District Court of the Arson charges, the Judge informed Judge Heath, as recorded by Catherine Cull, so he could acquit him in the High Court Blackmail case – he explained that Chris would be acquitted of the blackmail charges in the following days and the Crown Barrister agreed.
Chris had every right to chase IAG and in any case, all the threatened disclosure was already yesterday’s news but the case went ahead in strange circumstances as detailed in this post. It could not have done so if the Judge knew I had been acquitted!
The blackmail case resumed whilst Chris was on remand, for breaching his bail conditions! He had emailed Hlavac asking if IAG would be meeting the claims after the last hearing. He was banned from contacting IAG but had previously exchanged emails with Hlavac without an issue. He was out of contact with his lawyer and totally unaware of what was happening. IAG had repeatedly objected to him being given bail on the grounds that he may publish more damaging material against them!
The mechanism of making this happen is a mystery, it appears likely that IAG’s lawyers pushed the Crown to move the blackmail case to trial on the grounds that with the Police withdrawing the arson charges the arson case was left unresolved and therefore the simpler blackmail case should go on but Crown lawyer, Mike Smith had assured me that the blackmail case would be discharged due to Heath J’s ruling.
The Court seems to have been unaware that Chris had been acquitted of arson and that the last hearing had proved that he had no opportunity to cause the fire.
At the resumed bail hearing, he discovered that a trial date, some 12 weeks away had been set for the blackmail case. IAG’s lawyers pushed for him to be held on remand until this happened and that was agreed.
The Blackmail trial took place in front of the Honourable Justice Ailsa Duffy. It is hard to understand how the respected Duffy J would not follow the rulings of Heath J and see that the case was linked to the arson case which had concluded with me being acquitted unless she was unaware of that event.
Chris was still being held at Kaikohe prison during the trial, he was transported, handcuffed, in a prison transport vehicle down to Whangarei and back every day, a trip of around 2 hours each way. With his medical conditions this effectively made his pain level so high that he wasn’t really aware of what was happening in the Court.
Chris had very little time to discuss the position with Catherine Cull and he reports that she wasn’t her usual self at all. She appeared to be strained and almost apologetic without reason, completely different to how she had been throughout the years they had worked together on the arson case.
The Jury selection was tedious, then for some reason the Jury was discharged, and a new selection was undertaken, three or four of the original jury also found themselves on the second one. Then one of the new Jury members was found to be an employee of ASB and they were involved with the case, so we went down to just 11.
Chris is not sure what had happened, but Catherine never mentioned the Wylie/Heath rulings nor the acquittal of the arson charges. He was disturbed but trusted her at this point. He could do nothing since she had persuaded him not to give any evidence at all.
DC Dawson gave evidence; he had a pile of papers which were a printed copy of the blog website Chris had produced over the years which would have had loads of comments from site readers all dated showing pages pre dated the blackmail charges. Dawson claimed this was the disclosure threatened in the document. That evidence had never been disclosed to Chris, Catherine may have seen it but not consulted him since she did not object and when he challenged her about it later, she said it was unimportant.
Those pages would have shown the disclosure was old news, but he could do nothing, Catherine said we couldn’t challenge it at that time.
It was all a very painful disaster, but everybody seemed to expect a not guilty verdict. A member of the Court staff even came and explained to Chris what would happen when he was discharged. Catherine was very positive as were the two officers that had sat with him during the whole trial. The prosecution lawyers were very downbeat, it was all very strange.
Justice Duffy’s face showed her to be shocked when the guilty verdict was delivered, with venom, by the jury chairperson, one of the jurors that had been selected for both juries.
Catherine was apologetic, stating it is uncommon, but it can happen in jury trials, I asked for explanation, but she wouldn’t elaborate.
IAG pushed for a long jail sentence, they had senior management members claiming how damaging the disclosure was. Duffy J seemed to tell them off, they should have dealt with me directly rather than involving the Police, they have processes to deal with disgruntled policy holders.
Chris thinks Duffy J gave him the minimum sentence possible that would stop IAG appealing against it, nine months home detention. He was immediately released.
Catherine had however, strongly recommended him not to appeal, which at the time he thought was a mistake. She explained that Duffy J had been very fair in the circumstances and winning the Appeal would just get him a retrial possibly in front of a judge that was not so sensible. IAG would have loved to have another chance to get him a long jail sentence completely killing the insurance claims. He accepted the logic and accepted the logic of her reasoning.