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Wed 22nd December 2004

High ranking man’s name suppressed in sex case

Filed under: Law & Courts — domviol @ 1:43 pm

High ranking man’s name suppressed in sex case
19 December 2004

By TONY WALL and EMILY WATT

The Sunday Star-Times is fighting to unmask a high-ranking foreigner accused of a sex crime but whose identity is being protected by the courts.

The paper is prohibited from revealing anything more about him, including where he lives and details of the alleged crime.

Sweeping suppression orders stop us from publishing the man’s name, his nationality, who he works for and the nature of his work. Nor can we describe what he is alleged to have done to the victim, a young woman.

The man has gone to the second highest court in the country, the Court of Appeal, in an effort to prevent certain evidence being used against him in any future trial at the district court.

In what is seen as a precedent-setting decision, the Court of Appeal threw out his application and the evidence will be admissible.

But the appeal court has concurred with the lower court on the issue of suppression, prohibiting the publication of details of the case except in law journals.

The Star-Times is campaigning for the right to report the case in the interests of open justice and freedom of information.

Dressed in an immaculate suit outside his upmarket home, the man told the Star-Times the accusation was made as a grudge after he gave the woman notice. He said he could have chosen to flee the country to spare his name.

But he said he had decided to stay and prove his innocence.

“I tried to do the right thing (and fight the charges),” he said. The man said his wife was behind him as he continued to battle to clear his name.

“All my friends and family support me.”

The case appears to reflect other recent cases, which involved celebrities and high-profile people, including athletes, getting special treatment in the courts.

This month the Star-Times lost an application to lift name suppression given to a former All Black accused of assaulting a pregnant woman.

The paper argued in court that there were no special circumstances to warrant name suppression, but Judge Philip Recordon said the effects of the player’s name being published outweighed the crime, which he said was at the lower end of the scale.

He refused to lift name suppression and said doing so would go against the “therapeutic” approach of his Family Violence Court.

That caused outrage from Women’s Refuge and other support groups, which said it sent the wrong message to offenders.

There is growing evidence that a defendant’s status correlates with how they have been dealt with in court.

Last year, in the High Court at Auckland, Judge Marion Frater told former television newsreader Darren McDonald – who was addicted to controversial drug P – that because of his high profile and the availability of drugs in prison, she was prepared to give him a non-custodial sentence for supplying methamphetamine and ecstasy.

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