Rodney Hide: Predator hiding in clear sight

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David Cunliffe was not aware of the sex offender's identity. Photo / APN
David Cunliffe was not aware of the sex offender's identity. Photo / APN

I was wrong when I claimed that leading politicians knew the name of the "prominent" New Zealander hiding behind name suppression. David Cunliffe did not.

The Labour leader has met the sex predator. "If I had known of the suggestion [that the man was a sex predator hiding behind name suppression], no such meeting would have taken place." I am sure that's true.

The meeting highlights two key points. First, there's no shaming without naming. The offender remains brazen and without remorse. He happily and openly met the Leader of the Opposition who had just loudly and boldly spoken out against sexual violence.

You think he would be too ashamed. But no. Name suppression thwarts justice because the offender has never had to own up. He can carry on like nothing happened. He can have a joke and a laugh with the leader of the Labour Party exactly as if he had never performed an indecent act on a woman in her own home. Oh that his victim could just share a joke, have a laugh, or meet the leader of the Labour Party.

Second, the meeting highlights the danger to which name suppression exposes women.

The sex predator's prominence is such that Cunliffe was attracted to meet him. Knowing the sex pest's background and history it's easy to see why. We are all attracted to and flattered by the attention of "prominent" men.

And so, blithely unaware of the man's offending, Cunliffe met him. The result was a slight political embarrassment.

But consider the danger the man poses to women. If Cunliffe with his campaign staff and parliamentary resources - and his ear to the ground - didn't know of the man's attack, what chance have the rest of us? And women can be just as easily attracted and flattered to meeting a "prominent" man as was Cunliffe. But they are at risk of far more than political embarrassment. We drop our guard with "prominent" people. We expect them to be better than that. We feel as if we know them and that we can trust them, just like we felt we knew and could trust Rolf Harris.

We have a sex offender in our midst. He has not been shamed. He has no remorse. His prominence makes him attractive for women to pass time with. Name suppression means they don't know to be wary. His "prominence" means women drop their guard.

Does anyone other than the offender have a responsibility should he offend again? The judge who felt the poor man had suffered "a bit of a cross" by being prosecuted? Our MPs for their silence and name suppression laws?

What would we say to his victim if he attacks again? And, ask yourself, what's the culture in New Zealand that your answers imply?

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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