The High Court has recently taken the rare step of recommending a correction and apology be issued for defamatory statements made by a husband and wife.

This is the first instance in which a New Zealand Court has exercised these powers under the Defamation Act 1992.

The couple face the prospect of paying the applicant $100,000 damages if they fail to follow the Court’s recommendation.

The defamatory statements came after an increasingly hostile relationship developed between the wife and the applicant, who had worked together at a school (as the school librarian and principal respectively) in a small rural community.

The defamatory statements were contained in letters sent out seeking material for a book the husband and wife commissioned about the applicant’s alleged behaviour.

Because of how widely the dispute had become known within the community, it was also recommended that the apology and correction be published in two local newspapers.