Name suppression law in need of review - National Māori Authority

By Te Ao - Māori News

Business lobby National Maori Authority chair  Matthew Tukaki is calling for a review on name suppression laws.

Tukaki, who is also the chair of the NZ Māori Council,  says the name suppression people convicted of “heinous” crimes get makes a mockery of victims' rights and, in some cases, “smacks of privilege”.

“The reality is the Criminal Procedures Act 2011 needs to be overhauled to favour the public's right to know and the needs of victims. For example, while a case is going on there is no reason why name suppression couldn’t be applied but, when the case is concluded, is there really a need for  name suppression?” Tukaki says.

“Then there are the multiple cases where you have to wonder if this is not the alleged perpetrators taking advantage."

The most recent case of a rich-lister businessman convicted of serious charges relating to the molestation of young men is one example.

Tukaki says "While the name suppression order continues, this so-called well-known New Zealander is not exactly being punished in public view – and by all accounts the person is enjoying life as normal.

Rich get suppression

"That quite frankly is wrong. And in case after case after case the method seems to be that those who can afford a decent lawyer, and let's face it there are some pretty average ones out there, will always be able to use the system to their advantage.”

Along with being convicted of indecently assaulting three men, the businessman was also found guilty of two charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

His manager was found guilty on one charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Both men continue to have interim name suppression and are due to be sentenced in May.

Another recent case includes four men charged over the death of a 21-year-old Auckland man. 

The victim was with friends socialising and playing music in Manurewa's Jellicoe Park on October 3 last year.

He fell victim to what police called a "random and unprovoked attack".

Four men charged in relation to the death of the 21-year-old applied to the Court of Appeal to keep their identities secret.

Justice Gordon denied applications for continued name suppression on March 23 but their names cannot be revealed while they appeal the decision.

A case review hearing will be held on May 26.

Public's right to know

“In essence, there is a need to protect the identity of victims but also there needs to be a balance of the public's right to know. And it should not be left just to the media to appeal such decisions in the court around continued name suppression.” 

“At the very least we need to open up a debate about whether change is needed or not and if so what could it mean – but let's not forget here that the rights of victims must be paramount in our thinking.

"Name suppression is an entirely local invention, dating back to 1920 when William Massey was prime minister and came about when a group of probation officers wanted to ensure first-time young offenders were still able to go on with a normal life and get a job.

"This turned into the Probation Offenders Bill but then when the bill went through the Parliament the suppression clause was extended, making all offenders eligible. Ironically, at the time it excluded murder, but over time that too has changed.” 

The current law

Tukaki says the specific section in the law that needs to be looked at is 200 (2) A of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 that states:

The court may make an order under subsection (1) only if the court is satisfied that publication would be likely to cause extreme hardship to the person charged with, or convicted of, or acquitted of the offence, or any person connected with that person; or

(b) cast suspicion on another person that may cause undue hardship to that person; or

(c) cause undue hardship to any victim of the offence; or

(d) create a real risk of prejudice to a fair trial; or

(e) endanger the safety of any person; or

(f) lead to the identification of another person whose name is suppressed by order or by law; or

(g) prejudice the maintenance of the law, including the prevention, investigation, and detection of offences; or

(h) prejudice the security or defence of New Zealand.

If you are the victim of a crime, please contact Victim Support on 0800 842 846.