Breaking the law in the pursuit of a story

14 January 2016

There has been a lot of controversy this week after TV3 decided to conduct a sting operation to purchase a gun online using false particulars. The Police have acted to close what was perceived a loophole and the gun dealer who fell foul is promising to bring a private prosecution against the reporter for breaking the law, if the Police don’t prosecute her first.

It’s not necessary to go into the legal ramifications here as there is a lot of comment in the media from law experts after the show aired

It occurs to me though that had a formal investigation plan been documented and followed, using a professional investigator with a firearms licence as part of the team to ensure the integrity of the gun handling, instead of showing the reporter with a loaded gun and cleaning the same, at least some of the perceived after issues might have been avoided. The journalist does say there was a staffer with a firearms licence present, but I think it would have been a better look to have the investigator part of the programme and to handle the gun at all times.

My comments follow from experience of purchasing a gun to highlight a problem, ironically, for Tv3 60 Minutes when we purchased a gun through Trademe without the seller asking to sight a firearms licence. The difference here being we did not break any laws, the seller did.

The defence of media highlighting “Public Interest” is likely to prevail here and the journalist should be congratulated for the story. It certainly tests the boundaries on breaking the law though as opposed to using what we term a “Prepared Subterfuge”.