In early February, NZME reported a number of inaccurate claims about the New Zealand Defence Force and BRIG Andrew Gray. These claims appeared in the Weekend Herald in print and online and were repeated in the Herald on Sunday and on Newstalk ZB.
A retraction and apology requested by NZDF was published in the Weekend Herald last Saturday 7 March as well as being posted online and reported on Newstalk ZB. The text of the apology appearing in the Weekend Herald is as follows:
Three related articles published in the Weekend Herald, Herald on Sunday and at nzherald.co.nz investigated complaints by three women wanting to join NZ Defence Force about medical examinations by a general practitioner and NZDF's response to those complaints.
It was stated that Surgeon Brigadier Andrew Gray, current Director of Defence Health, had declined a recommendation by NZDF's Chief Medical Officer that complaints should be referred to the Medical Council and that over the next six months the CMO had sent four memos to Brigadier Gray but that none of those had been responded to. It reported the opinion of the CMO that there was a decision not to act on the complaints because of concerns about reputational damage to NZDF and that allegations were swept under the carpet. It was further reported that there were a number of NZDF personnel who wanted to report the allegations, but that “command” did not want to, so in the end the CMO allowed one of his team to brief the Medical Council. In addition, it said NZDF refused to provide the general practitioner's name when requested by the Medical Council.
The Herald unreservedly retracts those statements about Brigadier Gray and accepts that they were wrong in fact, and without substance.
In fact, within 16 minutes of the complaints being brought to his attention Brigadier Gray advised the CMO (and other NZDF personnel) that the three complaints needed to be referred to the Medical Council. A formal letter was sent by the CMO to the Medical Council advising it of the complaints which identified the general practitioner and the practice by name.
The Herald accepts unreservedly that the suggestion that Brigadier Gray had “swept the complaints under the carpet” is totally unfounded. We regret the errors and unreservedly apologise to Brigadier Gray for the damage to his reputation and the distress to him, his family and colleagues.
The story also said the Defence Force had attempted to “gag” the Herald, which we accept was not an accurate reflection of the situation. The story quoted Dr Paul Nealis saying that a Court of Inquiry was “rorted by conflicts of interest”. The Herald accepts NZDF’s position that the Court of Inquiry was conducted robustly and that there was no conflict of interest. Also, the Herald accepts that Frances Joychild QC was provided incorrect information upon which she based her comments. We also apologise to Ms Joychild and to NZDF.