In a shock development in our â€œHowe Offensiveâ€ series, we can exclusively reveal that so-called â€œexecutive editorâ€ of the Herald Sun, previous criminal offender (found guilty in the Magistrates Court of breaches of the Children and Young Persons Act), Alan Howe intends to sue VEXNEWS and its publisher Andrew Landeryou for saying mean things about him.
Scandalously, we have been threatened with an â€œinterim injunctionâ€ unless we remove material critical of Howe.
The self-styled â€œjournalistâ€â€“ who isnâ€™t much of one â€“ has previously thrashed our courts of law, including judges like County Court judge Felicity Hampel, whom he sexistly disparaged as a â€œdelicate petalâ€ because he reckoned she didnâ€™t like criticism.
Now, in a move some might think somewhat hypocritical, Howeâ€™s turning to the courts to silence criticism of him.
Howe has gone for the doctor, invoking Labor-aligned lawyer Justin Quill, and it really does look like a case of the physician needing to heal himself.
For the amusement of members of the VEXNEWS Investigations Unit â€“ whose flame of freedom we proudly hold aloft for all the world â€“ we provide the correspondence exchanged between Mr Quill, who has previously acted on behalf of News Limited, and us.
We have only redacted one very small part of it, mainly because Quillâ€™s letter claims that we published a claim we did not publish but by repeating that at this stage, we would be publishing the claim. If you can follow the bush lawyer logic. Hopefully the Supreme Court can, because it looks like thatâ€™s where weâ€™re headed. Time to dust off those Rumpole DVDs. The quality of mercy will hopefully not be too strained and will droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. Can you imagine the carnage?
More guts than Guthrie, more blood than an overblown London hacking scandal.
Howe has demanded we withdraw our article â€œSURRENDER MONKEY: Boneless wonder Alan Howe wants to wave white flag to terrorâ€
We wonâ€™t be censored by the likes of him. Not now. Not ever.
THE â€œBIT TOO FARâ€ DOCTRINE
His lawyer Mr Quill told us over the phone that â€œwe had gone a bit too far.â€ He reassured us that â€œcompensationâ€ wasnâ€™t an issue. We refrained from laughing.
Quill normally styles himself as a great protector of our liberties and free speech, railing against the rising tide of silly suppression orders and representing the Herald Sun against the offended and litigious. This legal doctrine of a â€œbit too farâ€ we look forward to exploring in coming days. We donâ€™t think you can really even go too far in speaking truth to power and holding rich and powerful bullying men like Howe to account.
In his letter he claims we made factual errors in our reporting of Howe. He has failed to identify a single one.
Our letter covers most of the issues we think.
This might be a battle to the end. But, oh, what expensive and extensive glory awaits. A noble cause. Menacing evil confronted. Weâ€™ve stood up to bullies like Alan Howe before. Isnâ€™t it amazing just how much they squeal when confronted by someone who gives them back their own medicine?
We will slay this dragon. Or give all in the attempt.
Bring it on.
Here are the scarlet letters:
From: Justin Quill firstname.lastname@example.org
to: Editor at VEXNEWS
date: Wed, Jun 8, 2011 at 6:35 PM
subject: Letter for your attention
Please find attached correspondence for your attention and the attention of vexnews.
Level 12, 533 Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne, VictoriaÂ 3000
Direct: + 61 3 8681 40XX | Reception: + 61 3 9663 98XX | Fax: + 61 3 9009 54XX | Mobile: + 61 429 899 4XX | Email: email@example.com.XX | Website: www.kellyhazellquill.com.au
If you receive this email by mistake please notify us and please do not use it.Â We do not waive any confidentiality, privilege or copyright in this email.
from Andrew Landeryou editor-at-vexnews.com
to Justin Quill firstname.lastname@example.org
date: Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 9:40 AM
subject: Re: Letter for your attention
Thursday June 9th 2011 9:40 AM (2 hours ago)
Dear Mr Quill
I assume it was you inquiring for our fax number yesterday evening, I
believed you were a new source so didn’t press you on the reasons for
your call as sometimes that can unsettle newbies.
If you were calling in your capacity as a lawyer, as the format of
your email suggests, it probably would have been best to state the
purpose of your business as I don’t tend to press unidentified callers
for details over the phone in case that scares off potential sources.
If you are a new source and have merely formatted your data in an
unusual but lawyerly way, my apologies in advance.
After numerous attempts we’re having trouble opening the attachment
you’ve supplied so I would appreciate it if you could incorporate its
text in an email so I can read it. If that’s not possible, it might be
best for me to pop in and collect a print-out of it. Please let me
know either way.
PS Please feel free to contact me on 0415 99 33 26 at any time.
As discussed today, below is the text of the letter that was sent to you last night.Â If you want me to fax it to you I can do so (or if you would like to pick it up let me know).
Also, I should confirm to you what I said on the telephone today, when I rang yesterday I did identify myself and said I wanted to send you a letter.Â My apologies for any confusion.
8 June 2011
We act for Alan Howe, the Executive Editor of the Herald Sun newspaper.
Our client has instructed us in relation to a series of articles concerning him which have been posted on the website â€“ www.vexnews.com. In particular, our client has drawn our attention to the article entitled: â€œSURRENDER MONKEY: Boneless Wonder Alan Howe wants to wave white flag to terrorâ€ published on 6 June 2011 under the by line of Andrew Landeryou.
The article is a malicious attack on our client which conveys highly defamatory imputations including that our client:
* is unemployable
* is a danger to children; and
The above imputations have caused and continue to cause our client and his family serious damage.
The article is riddled with factual errors ensuring that any attempt to defend it on the basis of a fair comment or honest opinion defences would fail. In addition, the article is part of a sustained personal and malicious attack on our client. Accordingly, even if the article did contain statements of opinon that would otherwise be protected by those defences, the existence of malice ensures those defences would fail.
The above imputations are factually inaccurate and therefore cannot be defended on the basis of a truth or justification defence.
We demand that the article immediately be removed from the vexnews website.
If the article is not removed by noon on Friday, 10 June 2011 (AEST) (or an appropriate undertaking that it will be removed within a reasonable time is not received by noon on 10 June 2011), we will seek our clientâ€™s instructions to immediately issue proceedings against you and to seek an interim injunction for the removal of the material.
For clarity, this letter should be taken as a concerns notice under the Defamation Act 2005 (Vic).
Our client otherwise reserves all his rights.
Kelly Hazell Quill Lawyers
Dear Mr Quill,
My five word response: Go ahead make my day.
My lengthier observation is that we won’t be removing the article, no matter how emphatically â€œdelicate petalâ€ Alan Howe sooks about it.
If Howe can’t stand the heat, he really should get out of the kitchen.
Go ahead make my day
As we always have, we shall, in any event, vigorously defend our right to publish news and commentary about high-profile public figures like your client, who enjoys tremendous privilege, while doing so little with it.
Do your worst and we’ll be sure to do our best.
While it is amusingly contemptible that Howe has such a delicate Orrefors-style glass jaw, as you might imagine being a self-appointed champion of free speech like yourself, that there are very important issues of liberty at stake here. And it will be my pleasure to fight for free speech, in full public view, in the courts, in the streets and the barren badlands of the interwebs. It will be quite fitting that Howe, after a lifetime pretending to be a journalist, will remove all doubt as he nears his final curtain. Itâ€™s rather sad.
Of course our article – and our coverage more generally – is not motivated by malice in the slightest. Invective is not proof alone. Thatâ€™s just how we roll. VEXNEWS is a vehicle for fearless and brave news reporting, not malice.Â We speak uncomfortable truths to power. I have never met Mr Howe and while having contempt for his views, his low performance in high office and for the way he treats his colleagues, this leads us to feel more pity than anything else. Not malice, however defined.
And it will be my pleasure to fight for free speech, in full public view, in the courts, in the streets and the barren badlands of the interwebs. It will be quite fitting that Howe, after a lifetime pretending to be a journalist, will remove all doubt as he nears his final curtain.
There are plenty of people whom we think ought to be sacked for bad performance, our observation of this or our expression of this opinion is not inherently malicious. We’d call it tough but fair criticism. He’s earned it. I urge you to take time to read his weekly column over the past year. They really are shite.
Simply put, Howe is the schoolyard bully of Melbourne’s mainstream media, tears streaking down his face at the impertinence that someone would dare stand up to his depravity and malevolence. We promise you: there’s more to come.
Mr Howe, I am advised, boasted to colleagues after the publication of which you now complain, that he “won several bets” that his recent attack on my elderly father would provoke criticism from me. Howe really is a small man, in every way. That’s what I mean when I say I feel pity for him. He is consumed with bitterness and psychiatric angst. And it’s hard to feel hostility or malice in those circumstances. Pity seems much more appropriate. When the lawyers are finished, I really hope he gets the help he clearly needs.
The truth is that we had planned our public campaign against Mr Howe’s tenure at the Herald Sun for a long time. I devised the name of the campaign the â€œHowe Offensiveâ€ while sunning my pale self on a sticky banana lounge, under the occasional shade of my clothes line, in summer-time back-yard repose. Not a pretty sight. But a very apt campaign name.
I certainly wasn’t going to let Howeâ€™s craven attack prompt us to alter our plans to publicly campaign for his removal. The â€œHowe Offensiveâ€ will continue.
I can assure you that while I note his previous lame-ass (to use the technical term) attacks on me and others I care about, I am far more troubled by the fact that as a highly remunerated employee, he takes editorial resources away from an otherwise great newspaper that serves its city so well on scarce resources that ought not be wasted. His colleagues can’t say it (publicly), The Age’s criticism will be obviously self-serving, so we think it’s highly appropriate that the criticism come from an unabashed friend of the Herald Sun. So there’s no malice, just concern that Howe’s a parasite on a far too benevolent and sentimental host. Newspapers need to do more with less; the Herald Sun would be so much more with less Alan Howe.
Mark my words, he’ll be gone soon enough.
Newspapers need to do more with less; the Herald Sun would be so much more with less Alan Howe.
This incident alone â€“ his cowardly invocation of high-priced legal stand-over men – makes our case rather strongly, doesn’t it? For that, I thank you.
His reaction, including in written correspondence currently stored on News Limited’s email system, and discoverable through legal process, shows that your description of his distress is based on instructions that can only be validly described as false. Perhaps he was putting on a brave front with the colleagues while drowning out – with occasional dunny flushes – anguished tears of rage in the executive washroom. Or perhaps he lies to his lawyer (to be sure, heâ€™s not the first). Either way, his veracity can be reasonably questioned. And will be.
You go on to say our article makes a number of imputations. I will deal with each of these.
1) That Howe is unemployable.
While we’re not sure that our words conveyed this meaning, he is clearly employable as he is being employed currently at HWT, however unfortunately. We understand that his previous efforts as a â€œscabâ€ or â€œstrike-breakerâ€ earned him a certain amount of loyalty from the company. We like the loyalty; but we canâ€™t help but want to pick at a scab. However, it is certainly our view that he is unfit to serve as an executive editor of the Herald Sun. We’re not sure we clearly expressed that view in VEXNEWS but happily do so now. Part of our defence will be that Howe in fact isn’t really an executive and isn’t really an editor of anything. He’s a little man with a big title. We hope that clarifies our view.
2) That Howe is a danger to children.
That’s not what we said. Or meant. What we did say – and stand by it – is that Howe was found guilty in the Magistrates Court of the criminal offence of identifying a child in legal proceedings, thereby endangering the child who was identified. That’s why the law is there, to protect vulnerable kids from being media-fodder. Howe did the crime and was punished. I think it’s perfectly legitimate for us to raise Howeâ€™s criminal past, providing we keep it in its proper context. This, we believe, we did. He is not, and nor did we suggest that he is, a danger to children, beyond the offence of which he was found guilty. Only gutter-snipes like Howe make such spectacular false claims based on nothing. We stick to the facts. Indeed, at the time we observed that he took full responsibility for the offence and that was a good thing to do. Weâ€™re not so charitable now because we know he doesnâ€™t deserve it.
3) That Howe [redacted].
A more serious claim and simply not what we wrote or suggested in any respect. While it is the policy of VEXNEWS to publish correspondence relating to legal procedings where weâ€™re permitted to do so, we won’t be publishing any reference to [redacted]. Nor have we. Normally, I am not interested in engaging with those who make legal threats but if you could clarify what on Earth you are talking about, I’d be happy to assist on this, if the claim appeared in a comment or in some other undetected form, it would certainly be removed. I made and want absolutely no reference to any such thing. I very much doubt any court could reach a contrary conclusion. Perhaps a guilty conscience is operating here, I’m not really sure. All very strange.
To conclude this lengthy rant, Howe has a weekly column in the nation’s best-selling (I think still) newspaper in addition to holding himself out as an â€œexecutive editorâ€ of the Herald Sun.
I note there are many other claims we’ve made about Howeâ€™s odious personal conduct, his grotesquely large salary and the poor quality of his work that – at least at this stage – remain uncontested and undisputed.
If there were factual errors, rather than just a general whine about our criticism, we would certainly respond to any reasonable request to address them. We are very fair about such things.
The issue ultimately is that Howe is remarkably well-paid for his very high-profile public role, even if, as we say, he’s just not very good at it. That claim is not disputed. And, in any event, itâ€™s our opinion, albeit a widely held one across Melbourne and in the news industry, if thatâ€™s the correct term for it.
No-one could dispute that Howe presents flamboyantly expressed views, opinions and arguments about a range of contentious matters. He has a pretty big platform on which to do it, too.
Howe dishes out the most astonishing criticism and savage attacks on so many people that it does seem remarkable that he is so thin-skinned. Or glass-jawed. Perhaps he could help pay his salary with an Orrefors sponsorship or promoting the Versailles Hall of Mirrors. My research on his columns- as yet mostly unpublished on VEXNEWS- reveals a racist, viciously anti-Catholic, sexist pig whose expressed views flip-flop better than any politician’s.
Your advice to your client ought to be succinct: grow a pair, little man.
I am entitled to engage in public discourse about those issues, about his bona fides and about whether he is true in his life to the words he uses. This will involve sometimes tough revelations about how he conducts himself. If he doesn’t like it, too bad. Your advice to your client ought to be succinct: grow a pair, little man.
The sad truth is that I’ve gone especially easy on Howe because of where he works and my affection for the great company that is the custodian of a fine institution. However, the days of me refraining from commentary on his lamentable work are over. He should, to use that delightful expression, suck it up.
While your client is accustomed to conducting himself in the manner of an impudent bully around his place of work, those same thuggish and improper ways won’t work with me. I’ve battled and bested much bigger and badder than a puffed-up little self-important “poison dwarf” (as he is unkindly referred to by colleagues).
You should convey to your client that no amount of legal threats or legal proceedings will change this reality. Those proceedings will only serve to draw further public attention to his unsuitability for the high office of privilege and power he currently maintains.
I look forward to working for justice by bringing on his departure, because while he may not technically unemployable, he is most certainly worthy of being sacked by the nation’s finest newspaper. If you sue, I will vigorously defend myself and ensure that Howeâ€™s name will live in infamy.
I will not be easily contactable by email for the next three weeks (at a place of rural enterprise preparing cows for live export) but can be reached by phone 24-7. If you would like to serve a writ or other documents, the most convenient way will be to phone ahead of time either on 0415 99 33 26 and I’ll travel into town to pick them up in person at your premises or wherever else is convenient to you.
PS I should also draw your attention to the fact that, in my opinion, for a variety of reasons that will probably become apparent in the course of the proceedings that I suspect there will be a serious conflict of interests between those of the Herald & Weekly Times and Mr Howe’s, both legally and otherwise. I am sure you are aware of your ethical and other obligations in relation to that.