Sands attracted attention through an unsuccessful claim that his privacy had been breached through a media release and press conference regarding a murder investigation.
The Court found that the two imputations that were conveyed were justified. Three additional alleged imputations were not conveyed.
The Court further held that the State did not contravene the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Act 1998 (SA) s 48 (SA) because the media release and press conference did not constitute a report of proceedings.
The judgment states
In neither the Media Release nor the Press Conference was Mr Sands named. For this reason alone, there can be no suggestion that the State, in any way, published a report of proceedings under the Act containing the name of a person under suspicion. However, as counsel for Mr Sands during oral submissions rightly conceded, the references in the Media Release and during the Press Conference to the affidavit naming Mr Sands did not constitute the publishing of a report of proceedings under the Act. In our view, this is a complete answer to Mr Sands’ complaint based on section 48. The plain (and conceptually logical) reading of the opening words is that section 48 is directed only to publishing a report of proceedings under the Act. In particular, it targets publishing a report containing the name of a person under suspicion or containing other information tending to identify such a person. Mr Sands’ contention that section 48 prohibits the publication of any information tending to identify the person under suspicion simpliciter, that is, independently of a “report of proceedings”, is a misreading of the text and falls outside the intended scope of the provision. It would not be rational to confine the prohibition of publication of a suspect’s identity directly by name to the context of a report of proceedings but to prohibit absolutely publication of a suspect’s identity indirectly by some other means.
The proper reading of section 48 is to recognise that “other information tending to identify the person” is simply an alternative to the direct naming of the person, but, as a matter of syntax, it still attaches to the publishing of a report. That is, section 48 only prohibits the publishing of a report of proceedings under the Act that names the person suspected directly, or the publishing of a report of proceedings under the Act that contains information that tends to identify the person suspected. At no time did the State publish such a report.
Section 48 was not engaged. It is unnecessary to deal with the issues whether the reference to the affidavit tended to identify Mr Sands or whether any failure to comply with section 48 would give rise to a private cause of action for breach of statutory duty.