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Matthew McClelland QC. PHOTO: Harbour Chambers

Newly appointed Queen's Counsel Matthew McClelland has a strong background in defamation matters.

The Wellington-based Harbour Chambers barrister – and former partner of Kensington Swan – has a broad practice, and is highly regarded for his work in professional discipline, medico-legal issues, coronial inquests, and resource management. But his contribution to the world of defamation should not be overlooked.

Mr McClelland has appeared in several significant defamation cases. Between 1998 and 2005 he was involved in Buchanan v Jennings, a case between a wool-industry official and former ACT MP Owen Jennings. The case was New Zealand’s last defamation case to be heard by the Privy Council – one of five over a 93-year period – and was significant for its role shaping the scope of parliamentary privilege.

He has represented a number of interesting clients in defamation stoushes, such as TVNZ, broadcaster Sean Plunket, publisher Butterworths, Post Office Bank, the Nursing Council, and even one of his fellow QC appointees, Matthew Palmer, whose father, former Prime Minister Geoffrey, ironically shares chambers with Mr McClelland, and is himself a QC.

In 2010, Mr McClelland was involved in the Wellington jury trial between property magnate Bob Jones and Christopher Lee, the latter of whom wrote an article published in community newspaper City Life, which made incorrect allegations of the former’s business practices – allegations which cost Mr Lee close to $200,000 in damages and legal costs.

More recently, Mr McClelland was engaged as Counsel in the unusual neighbourly dispute of Haywood v Bray – unusual in that the case concerned two neighbouring boaties living at Chaffers Marina.

Mr McClelland also appeared in A v Google NZ, a case that provided valuable contributions to new-media jurisprudence regarding search-engine liability for defamatory hyperlinks, as well as issues of neutral reportage and innocent dissemination.

But in addition to serving as the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, Mr McClelland has also been involved heavily in preventing defamations from the top. He is well-known as New Zealand’s foremost “libel reader” – many books which line the shelves of Paper Plus and Whitcoulls have been scrutinised for defamation risk by his careful eye.

Having received a barrister’s highest accolade, Mr McClelland joins the list of leading defamation silks, such as Julian Miles, Michael Reed, Hugh Rennie (another Harbour Chambers barrister), Bruce Gray, Richard Fowler and Daniel McLellan.