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Under cross examination by Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis SC, Mr Holman said not identifying the victims of sex cases was a basic tenet of court reporting, something he had reinforced constantly to staff.

“It is black and white stuff — it is not rocket science. Anything to do with sex is a red alert, sir, a red flag,” Mr Holman said.

“It was probably the lowest point of my career … it was the worst example of human error I’ve ever encountered in my life.

“I have a very good staff, regardless of the picture you are trying to paint. I have a dedicated, professional and loyal staff, who on this occasion messed up very badly.”

Mr Ellis said the paper had breached the relevant section of the Evidence Act twice in a year as well as losing a defamation case. He called for a deterrent penalty.

He questioned the effectiveness of the newspaper’s training and procedures in legal matters.

“What is wrong with the staff of Davies Brothers and the Mercury that they cannot get these simple things right?” he said.

“How many times does it have to happen before they become a good citizen?”

Justice Peter Evans reserved his decision in the case.

Full story, Mercury here