Not enough journalists like Heather du Plessis Allan

A couple of months ago, reporter Heather du Plessis Allan was tipped off about a loophole in the law that made it ridiculously easy to buy a gun. In order to expose the loophole in the law, Ms du Plessis-Allan decided that she would purchase a firearm herself. This may or may not have been the smartest way to go about exposing the loophole, and Ms du Plessis Allan and her partner Barry did give thought to the prospect that this would open up potential legal ramifications.

Today the home of Ms du Plessis-Allan was searched by the Police. They were looking for evidence to tie her to what they thought was a crime, so that they could prosecute. She was at work, but her partner Barry Soper, who is also a journalist was at home and recorded the Police searching their home. The search has been criticized by many as being unnecessary and reflective of the society we are becoming.

For me there are several things wrong with this whole affair:

  • Did the Police really need to search Ms du Plessis Allan’s house?
  • Does this set a precedent for journalists with regards to law enforcement issues, and if so, what?
  • Was this, given the complaints about Police not attending other crimes, a waste of Police resources?

I am not necessarily suggesting that she might be on to something bigger than a loophole in the law, but the Police reaction has no rational logic to it. Perhaps she should have talked to lawyers about the legal aspects of what she was proposing to do, but there is also the risk that if she had done that and they had said not to do it, the flaw in the law might not have been exposed.

At the end of the day, Ms du Plessis Allan did the law and New Zealand at large a favour. No one was killed and a major loophole in our gun laws ended up being closed. I think that the Police should desist charging her with anything and instead have a look at how they deal with journalists upholding the duties of the fourth estate in New Zealand. We should be grateful for journalists of Ms du Plessis-Allan’s calibre and I personally look forward to seeing more stories from her.

This is not her first big story. When there was a controversial sheep shipment to Saudi Arabia where animal rights were in the gun, Ms du Plessis Allan chased it down. She kept going at it long after others had moved on to the next story. The result was she exposed a scandalous lack of regard for animal rights in shipping large numbers of sheep overseas and it left senior Government and Ministry of Trade officials including the Minister, Murray McCully with egg on their face.

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