Permanent name suppression halved

Since the Criminal Procedure Act was introduced in 2011 the number of people granted permanent name suppression has halved.

  • 2011 – 640
  • 2012 – 407
  • 2013 – 354
  • 2014 – 336
  • 2015 – 317

The number of people getting interim suppression has hardly changed:

  • 2011 – 1,232
  • 2015 – 1,191

One News: Fewer people are getting permanent name suppression

The changes came amid calls for tougher conditions for name suppression, with many arguing that too many of those facing court were successfully keeping their identities secret for trivial reasons.

“New Zealanders made it clear they thought too many people were getting permanent name suppression” – Justice Minister Amy Adams

The Act made it harder for lawyers to justify name suppression for defendants by altering wording in the threshold from “undue hardship” to “extreme hardship”.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said the “law as it is now framed appears to be striking a better balance between the interests of the parties involved and the public’s right to know”.

But Queens Counsel Marie Dyhrberg says that it has become too hard to get suppression.

NBR Radio: QC Marie Dyhrberg ponders whether there is any point in seeking name suppression anymore

A high-profile criminal lawyer does not believe it is good the threshold for qualifying for name suppression has become “extremely difficult” as figures show cases have halved since 2011.

Dyhrberg was asked how the law has changed:

Marie Dyhrberg: The law has changed in the threshold that is required for someone to actually get suppression. It’s gone from ‘undue hardship’ to ‘extreme hardship.

Now that is threshold for both persons who are merely charged and have the presumption of innocence, as well as persons who are convicted or even acquitted of an offence.

That threshold extreme hardship we have found in practice in trying to achieve that is almost impossible to actually achieve. It is extremely difficult to qualify for suppression, and as I say that presumption of innocence is something that is not a consideration, really not a consideration that the courts can take into account.

Is the law the reason why name suppression numbers are dropping?

Marie Dyhrberg: As a lawyer I advise clients that the threshold is so hard to achieve you have to tell clients it’s going to cost x amount to actually try for name suppression.

If you fail well then of course it draws attention to their case which is what happens, and that most people don’t achieve it, you just simply cannot get name suppression.

So for lawyers and for clients you almost at that stage “What’s the point?” Why bother even trying, it’s so hard and so high a threshold very few people are getting it.

So is it a good thing?

Marie Dyhrberg: I don’t believe so. I think the threshold is too high, that there are very good reasons for people to have name suppression particularly when you are merely charged with an offence.

Publicity for someone who are in professional positions, they may lose clients, they old, well, mud sticks, there must be something there.

All of those things and that there are people that I think under the old law would still be hard, you still have to show that you are going to be affected in some way, but under the old standard they legitimately and quite appropriately got suppression.

But there are cases now where it’s so extreme that there are people who are suffering as a result.

So my view is that the threshold is too high.

And of course you have this justification to say well only famous people, they’re hiding behind their fame.

Well they are being penalised for being famous because nobody is interested in Mary Smith who has no media interest whatsoever and if she is appearing in court nobody publishes that.

But of course somebody who has a name whether they’re famous for whatever reason or well known, then suddenly that’s who the media want to be interested in so they are penalised more so than somebody who’s just ordinary.

And yet they are ones who are suffering as a result.

What does the profession thin k of it?

Marie Dyhrberg: I think most lawyers feel the same as I do. Ultimately of course it’s up to the client to go ahead with that application, but again when you almost have no chance of succeeding then of course the risk of drawing attention to your case means that by doing the application, not likely to succeed, therefore the chances of them being published is enhanced.

A tricky situation to be in, with a high risk of failure and a higher risk of greater publicity.

So you put that to clients, sometimes they say “so what do you think?” and I just keep emphasising it’s not easy, it’s virtually impossible, and this is the risk.

And I find most clients say well I don’t want to take that risk, we’ll just try and see if we can get by without drawing attention to ourselves.

With about 1,200 a year getting interim suppression it seems that she is overstating the difficulties, especially for those only charged and not convicted.

Leave a comment

14 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  27th April 2016

    I’m thinking maybe the balance is about right now. There have been cases of some pretty seriously horrible murders where’s there’s no real doubt they’re guilty, it’s nobody famous or rich, and they’ve still been granted suppression at least until they’ve appeared in Court.

    Reply
  2. patupaiarehe

     /  27th April 2016

    The number of [deleted, I think it’s unfair on many to make general assertions like this – PG] who have name suppression has remained the same tho’…

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  27th April 2016

      Can you maybe make your point a little less generically or whatever pp? I’d like to know what you’re trying to say. Are you saying that people with money, professional occupations, high profiles (entertainers etc), that sort of thing get their names suppressed more often, or something along those lines? If so I don’t know the figures so I don’t know if that’s true or not.

      Reply
      • patupaiarehe

         /  27th April 2016

        Pete has moderated on this already, as you can see above. I respect his judgement, and will not be elaborating any further…..

        Reply
  3. Kitty Catkin

     /  27th April 2016

    I wonder if it’s that it makes news when someone well-known has it (if you see what I mean) more than if it’s a taxi-driver from Timaru or a window-cleaner from Wellsworth. ‘Person hardly anyone’s ever heard of anyway has name suppression.’

    I believe that it should be automatic in sex cases unless or until the person’s found guilty.

    The way that trials are filmed and played on the news as if they were ‘dramas’, with no respect for the privacy of the dead person-we all know what rape is, thank you, and what is likely to be left in the victim’s body, we don’t need to hear it-appals me. How about considering the family of the victim ? Or even the accused who may not be guilty ? And many people would find it hard to act naturally in front of a camera if they’re not used to it, so could inadvertently give a bad impression. These are trials, not entertainment.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  27th April 2016

      “I believe that it should be automatic in sex cases unless or until the person’s found guilty.”

      I believe that is the case already.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  28th April 2016

        I don’t think that it is.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  28th April 2016

          I was thinking of rape/sexual assault/sex abuse cases, as opposed to, say, murders with a sexual component. I may have to bow to your greater knowledge. What cases do you know of where name suppression wasn’t granted?

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  28th April 2016

            I don’t know it as a certainty-but didn’t we hear the name of that woman who did a sex act on her baby and sold the video ?

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  28th April 2016

              I’ve just remembered-a teacher at my brother’s school was accused of sex with under-age boys and we knew his name, as it was printed-he was found guilty, and everyone who knew him was astounded, both at the accusation and the conviction,. A teacher whom I knew slightly was accused in Hamilton of a ridiculous sex crime-he supposedly picked up a 10 year old under each arm and ran with them through the playground, unobserved, to a classroom where he supposedly did whatever it was to them-his name was in the press beforehand. He left teaching, although the case was more or less thrown out as I remember-it was so far-fetched-so those two liars caused the loss of a good and popular teacher.

              And we all knew the name of Peter Ellis.

    • patupaiarehe

       /  27th April 2016

      I believe that it should be automatic in sex cases unless or until the person’s found guilty

      We don’t agree often Kitty, but I’m with you on this one. Mud sticks. Which is why anyone accused of such crimes should remain anonymous until proven guilty. Of course, if they are convicted, and their victim waives their own right to suppression, the public should know their identity…..

      Reply
  4. Ray

     /  27th April 2016

    I believe in the USA name suppression is rare, they seem to manage

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  28th April 2016

      What they do is their own business, but this is here, Mud does stick, and the person will forever have the knowledge that everyone knows that they were accused of this dreadful thing. If they are proved guilty, that is different.

      Reply

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