Judge changes boy's name to avoid links to criminal dad

By Contributor

The judge has directed that the boy's name can be changed at the Births Registry. Photo / NZME

By Ric Stevens, Open Justice multimedia journalist, Te Matau-a-Māui

The names of those involved in this story have been changed by the Family Court.

A mother has been allowed to change her son's registered birth name so that he will not be "bullied and embarrassed and shamed" on social media because of his father's extensive criminal past.

The 4-year old boy, identified as Benjamin David Blair Easton*, shared the same surname and two other names with his father, David Blair Easton.

The boy's mother, Anita Rowe, found that when she typed her son's name into Google, it returned news articles about the father's violent offending – particularly about him assaulting Rowe, and his own mother.

A Family Court judge has acknowledged those concerns and given the boy a new name.

"Ms Rowe was concerned that those (articles) will never be lost and that there was a potential for Benjamin to be bullied and embarrassed and shamed at some time in the future," Judge Alayne Willis said.

She said that Easton had an extensive criminal history, which also included community detention and intensive supervision for assault on an ex-partner.

"When I look at the reasons for the change of Benjamin's surname, in particular the reputational issue on social media, it is clear to me that it is in Benjamin's long-term interests that his name be changed," the judge said.

Rowe sought a direction from the court that her son's surname be changed from his father's to hers – from Easton to Rowe.

Easton, who has little contact with his son, opposed this and suggested that the boy be given a hyphenated surname to include both parents' names, either Easton-Rowe or Rowe-Easton.

A hyphenated name was also supported by the lawyer appointed by the court to represent Benjamin's interests.

The judge agreed to a hyphenated name, saying there was benefit in terms of Benjamin's identity for him to have the name of both his father and mother.

She also said it was not unusual for children to have hyphenated names.

But she also said that a combination of the names David Blair and Easton was generating the Google issues, and that a hyphenated surname combined with three given names was "cumbersome".

"Benjamin David Blair Easton-Rowe is a very big name for a small boy," the judge said.

She said this could be addressed by removing the names David and Blair as the middle names.

"I therefore make an order that Benjamin's name will be Benjamin Easton-Rowe, and his birth registration guide may be changed accordingly," the judge said.