Many legal minds making NZ LAW work

We are an association of independent legal practices, proactively sharing ideas and expertise for the benefit of our clients.

Why is There Name Suppression in Court?

Published: 30th November 2016

Author: Tanya Surrey, Mactodd

Published in: Fineprint | Issue #71

The issue of name suppression is a vexed one. It is human nature to be curious. Most of us prick up our ears when hearing that someone has been granted name suppression. This article explores the principles behind name suppression and why some people are granted this, and why others are refused.

New Zealand has a long-established principle that our legal system is one of open justice; the general public is entitled to know the identity of those who come before the courts. There are, of course, exceptions; there are many valid reasons why name suppression should be considered. However, in recent years permanent name suppression has become increasingly difficult to obtain.

Grounds for name suppression

Name suppression guidelines are contained in the Criminal Procedure Act 2011. There are various grounds the courts will consider before ordering name suppression. The courts can suppress the identity of the defendant if publication is likely to:

  • Cause extreme hardship to the defendant or a person connected with the defendant
  • Cause suspicion on another person that may cause undue hardship
  • Cause undue hardship to any victim of the offence
  • Create a real risk of prejudice to a fair trial
  • Endanger the safety of any person
  • Lead to the identification of another person whose name is suppressed
  • Prejudice the maintenance of the law, or
  • Prejudice the security or defence of New Zealand.

Interim name suppression is relatively straightforward to obtain. If an arguable case can be made based on one of the factors above, interim name suppression will be granted by the court. An order for permanent name suppression is more difficult.

Permanent name suppression

In a 2014 case,[¹] the High Court noted the starting point; that proceedings are held in open court and the media can report on those proceedings.

To override this starting point, someone applying for name suppression must meet one of the criteria listed above.

The test for extreme hardship is not an easy test to meet. In a 2015 case[²] the Court of Appeal considered a challenge to earlier decisions in respect of name suppression. Mrs Robertson had pleaded guilty and been sentenced in respect of three charges of theft by a person in a special relationship. The victims were a surf lifesaving club, a parent-teacher association and Mrs Robertson’s mother.

Name suppression was sought on the grounds that publication would cause extreme hardship to Mrs Robertson, her family and her employer. Medical evidence was submitted to the court.

The lower courts decided there was not sufficient evidence to depart from the usual principle of open justice. Mrs Robertson sought leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal; her application was declined. It was held that ‘extreme hardship’ required a very high level of hardship. It must be something beyond the usual hardship and embarrassment associated with publication of court proceedings.

Protecting a victim’s identity

Name suppression is also regularly granted to protect the identity of victims. In the case of certain types of sexual offending, name suppression of the offender will be automatic in order to protect the victim.

The High Court in Christchurch considered an interesting case in 2015.[³] In 1994, Mr X was convicted of sexual offending against two sisters. The names of the offender and the victims were automatically suppressed. The suppression orders remained in force for more than 20 years. In 2015, however, the victims went to the High Court to have name suppression lifted and their names made public. They subsequently sought to have the offender’s name identified. They argued his identity was only suppressed back in 1994 to protect them.

The High Court declined to lift the suppression order, stating that 20 years had passed and Mr X had not reoffended. The court considered there would be extreme hardship to Mr X if name suppression was removed.

This case raised an interesting point. The law allows for name suppression to be ordered to protect victims. However, if the victims don’t support the suppression, should the suppression be allowed? This is a difficult question.

A fair trial

Another issue that often comes up in name suppression cases is the right to a fair trial. This is a fundamental principle of our legal system. If a name is in the public arena then potential jurors could be influenced by publicity about a case. In these situations, interim name suppression is likely to be granted until there is a verdict.

In short, when charged and summonsed to appear in court, anyone has the option to seek name suppression; however, it is not an easy process. It is only in certain circumstances that the courts will deviate from the principle of open justice.

[¹] Beacon Media Group v Waititi [2014] NZHC 281
[²] Robertson v New Zealand Police [2015] NZCA 7
[³] Forsyth v District Court [2015] NZHC 2567

Related Articles

  • Auckland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Canterbury
  • Coromandel
  • Gisborne
  • Hawke's Bay
  • Kapiti Coast
  • Manawatu - Wanganui
  • Marlborough
  • Nelson
  • Northland
  • Otago
  • Southland
  • Taranaki
  • Waikato
  • Wairarapa
  • Wellington
  • West Coast

Duncan King Law

Led by the firm’s director Kristine King, and John Ray who operates in a consultancy role, the dedicated team represents some of the most talented lawyers and legal executives in Auckland.

Although their primary focus is on Property, Commercial and Trust law the wide skillset of their team, and their vast experience in almost every aspect of the law, means they are uniquely qualified to provide advice to their varied clientele, regardless of what their legal requirements may be.

Region: Auckland

Phone: 09 623 0515

Sandford & Partners Lawyers

We are a medium sized Rotorua law firm practicing in areas of business and property law, public law and personal legal services.

We are professionals who listen, who seek to understand your needs, and give practical and usable advice. We thrive on the challenge of providing excellent legal work and aim to give you the highest level of service. For us, working for you means dealing with the little details as well as the big picture.

Region: Bay of Plenty

Phone: 07 348 6039

RSM Law

RSM Law is considered one of the most client focused law firms in South Canterbury. Established in 1883, the firm has played an integral part in the growth and development of South Canterbury, and beyond.

RSM Law's expertise covers all areas of the law, with particular emphasis on business law (including company law, small business and compliance); property law (rural and commercial property, and home buying and selling); litigation; resource management issues,(Carbon Accounting and Emissions Trading) estate planning, wills and trusts; infrastructure and syndication; and personal legal services.

Region: Canterbury

Phone: 03 687 9777

Purnell Lawyers

There is nothing as inevitable as change. Since opening for business early last century, we at Purnell Lawyers have seen many changes both in name and in the people who have made up the members of our team. We have been privileged to have served the public throughout all of these times. 

We are confident that we will continue to bring top quality legal services to our clients well into the future.

Region: Coromandel

Phone: 07 868 8680

Woodward Chrisp

At Woodward Chrisp we strive to meet the needs of our clients by providing a wide range of high quality legal services within a supportive and collaborative environment.

Woodward Chrisp is the amalgamation of two long established Gisborne legal firms: Woodward Iles & Co and Chrisp and Chrisp. Today’s partners are Ross Revington, Adam Simperingham, Jeff Allen and Ellie FitzGerald.

Region: Gisborne

Phone: 06 869 0900

NZ LAW Limited

NZ LAW Limited is an association of independent legal practices with member firms located throughout New Zealand. There are currently 53 member firms practising in a wide range of legal disciplines ranging from business law, home buying and selling, immigration law and intellectual property to aviation law and viticulture.

The group was established in 1992 when about five law firms met in Auckland to find a way to benefit their clients by replicating the conviviality and the sharing of ideas and expertise that occurs in larger law firms, but still be able to retain client confidentiality and their own independence.

Region: Hawke's Bay

Phone: 06 835 5299

BMC Lawyers

BMC lawyers has built a reputation for providing quality service and delivering real results. Our strength is our broad-ranging legal experience that gives us the ability to match clients with the right mix of legal skills for their particular needs.

Our legal professionals are passionate about what they do and work alongside a talented team of support and administration staff to make a real positive difference to our clients.”

Region: Kapiti Coast

Phone: 04 296 1105

Dorrington Poole

Dorrington Poole Lawyers has a long tradition in Dannevirke and was founded in 1914 by Percy Dorrington. The firm still acts for families of some of the earliest clients. The long term relationship with those clients gives continuity in a fast changing world.

The firm provides quality legal services within New Zealand for its rural, commercial and private clients. We provide services for clients not only in the Southern Hawkes Bay/Tararua area but also throughout the country.

Region: Manawatu - Wanganui

Phone: 06 374 7089

Wain & Naysmith

Based in Blenheim, Wain & Naysmith Lawyers is a full service law firm, and a powerhouse for property, family and business law.

We pride ourselves in providing clear and cost effective legal solutions and practical advice for you, your family and your business.

Region: Marlborough

Phone: 03 520 6103

Knapps Lawyers

As a firm, we promise to look after you and treat you in a manner that we would expect to be treated by a professional services provider; we promise to use every available legal remedy available to us to resolve your issue and to do what you ask us to do in a timely manner.

We will hold in strict confidence all information that we acquire through our work for you and which concerns your business or personal information.  The only exceptions are where you authorise us to disclose such information or where we must do so by law.

Region: Nelson

Phone: 03 544 7888

Law North Limited

We pride ourselves on being a "general store" for most legal issues but also have several in-house experts in specialised areas including trusts, relationship property, business and property law.  No matter what your issue is - whether you are looking for trusted legal advisers to steer you through life, or you have a one-off problem to sort out - we would be pleased to help.

Law North Ltd provides a broad range of legal services across the Far North district from our base in Kerikeri.   We have operated in the area for over 100 years and have a long-standing history of providing legal services to a diverse client base, including businesses and private clients.   Our directors and their families have been part of the Bay of Islands community for several generations and remain committed to the area and its people.  We often call upon strong local knowledge to resolve issues for clients whilst remaining vigilant about client confidentiality.

Region: Northland

Phone: 09 407 7099

Berry & Co

Berry & Co is a long established, well respected Otago law firm providing a broad range of legal services for our business and personal clients.

We enjoy working closely with our clients, we listen and then we provide practical commonsense legal advice that achieves the outcome that is desired. We have a reputation for obtaining excellent results.

Region: Otago

Phone: 03 433 0007

Cruickshank Pryde

We are proud to provide a full suite of legal services to the regions of Southland and Central Otago. With our offices, located in Invercargill, Gore and Queenstown, equipped with the latest modern technology, we can service wider New Zealand and international clients with ease. Our areas of expertise include commercial, rural, business, employment, family, criminal, property, resource management and estate planning law.

Region: Southland

Phone: 03 214 4069

Welsh McCarthy

Welsh McCarthy practises in Hawera, South Taranaki. Predominant industries in the South Taranaki district are dairy farming, oil and gas. The South Taranaki area also has the largest one-site multi product milk processing facility in the world

We deal with company and commercial transactions, commercial and family law, farm and residential sales and purchases, estate planning and family and charitable trusts. A large part of the firm also deals in the area of family law.

Region: Taranaki

Phone: 06 278 5039

Lamb Bain Laubscher

The firm advises clients on a regional and national level, regularly meeting with clients throughout New Zealand at their places of business or residence. Building on the experience of its members, the firm has forged a successful relationship with its clients, and in some cases act for and advise three generations of the same family.

The firm seeks to create innovative and advantageous solutions based on their knowledge and experience and a keen appreciation of each clients individual circumstances.

The firm has modern internal systems and an infrastructure which enables direct and efficient means of service to clients. There is an emphasis on building strong relationships with our clients and providing a personalised service.

Region: Waikato

Phone: 07 878 1011

Gawith Burridge

Gawith Burridge traces its history back to 1875 when Charles Gawith first set up his practice. Since then the firm has undergone many changes, including a merger between Gawith & Co and Burridge & Co in 1998 to form our current practice.

Our firm draws on the breadth of expertise available from some of the region’s most senior legal practitioners, as well as the skills of those who have moved here from larger corporate environments.

As a result, we provide clients with a comprehensive range of legal services right here in the Wairarapa. We can provide you with legal assistance whether you are an individual or a company, with everything from setting up a Will to selling your farming business. 

Region: Wairarapa

Phone: 06 370 0000

Gillespie Young Watson

We specialise in Property, Commercial and Trust Law. When it comes to law firm size we are bigger than smaller and smaller than big. By limiting the work we do to our specialist areas, we like to think we bring together the best of big firm skill sets with the personal care, attention and relationships of small firms.

We expect our clients to receive clear, practical and timely advice. We place a premium on accessibility and convenience to our clients. We value and appreciate all of our clients and want to do the best possible job for each of them. When we close a file we want the client to feel they have received exceptional advice, service and value.

Region: Wellington

Phone: 04 569 3997

Hannan & Seddon

The Law Firm of Hannan & Seddon dates back to September 1867.

The firm's offices were in Werita Street from 1867 until 1982 when the firm moved to Tarapuhi Street and then to its current spacious premises at 61 Guinness Street in 1998.

The name Hannan comes from Mr Michael Hannan whose son John Hannan (Jack) joined the firm in 1908. Jack Hannan remained in partnership until he passed away in 1974 at the age of 90!

The name Seddon comes from Mr T E Y Seddon (son of Premier Richard John Seddon from Kumara) who joined the firm in the 1920's. The other prominent Solicitor at Hannan & Seddon was Cyril McGinley who joined the firm in the late 1920’s and retired as a Consultant in 1997 aged 87.

Currently we have two Partners within our firm. Tony Sullivan who has been with us for 29 years and Colin Smith, 26 years. The firm also has two long serving Legal Executives Elaine Knowles and Beverley Walsh.  

Region: West Coast

Phone: 03 768 4169

All the information published on this website, or in any article herein is true and accurate to the best of the authors' knowledge. Information on this site should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by NZ LAW Limited, or individual NZ LAW member firms for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on information published on this site. Views expressed in any article are the views of the authors individually and do not necessarily reflect the view of NZ LAW or their member firms. Information appearing on this site may only be reproduced with prior approval from NZ LAW Limited Head Office, and credit being given to the source. © NZ LAW Limited