Name suppression quandary

By Chloe Johnson

The case of sexual assault throws the name suppression issue into sharp relief. Photo / NZ Herald
The case of sexual assault throws the name suppression issue into sharp relief. Photo / NZ Herald

An Auckland man indecently assaulted a 15-year-old girl who worked for him.

The man pleaded guilty and was convicted and sentenced.

But two days later, when he learned his name was to be published, he went back to court - and this week a District Court judge agreed to permanently suppress his identity.

"My wife is sick," the shop owner pleaded.

The man has been banned from employing young staff after inappropriately kissing and cuddling the 15-year-old girl during her first week on the job.

But you will not know who he is when ordering your meal from this man.

He was convicted and sentenced in October after pleading guilty to four charges of indecent assault.

The permanent suppression order is so strict that even identifying the judge and the court in which he made the order is seen as potentially identifying the man.

The judge said the man had kissed the teenager on the lips and cheek several times over three days in November last year. His wife found the girl crying in the bathroom.

It was the girl's first job and, on her second day, the shop owner asked her to remove her cardigan and pose for a photograph, before kissing and hugging her.

She felt awkward and had no one to talk to about the indecent assault, the judge said.

"She is undertaking counselling at school and she is nervous about the prospect of seeing you again."

The man initially told the court he was sorry but didn't think he had done anything wrong.

His wife, who has been diagnosed with a serious illness, said he was only treating the girl like he would one of his own children, and the girl had misunderstood his intentions.

At the name suppression hearing on Thursday, the judge said identifying the man would have a negative impact on his wife's health, which "far outweighed" public interest.

The man told the Herald on Sunday he had kept the court case a secret from his colleagues and employees because he feared losing his business.

"I will collapse, I will be on the street. I am sorry, I have apologised to her and I'm going through counselling," he said.

The man was sentenced to 12 months' intensive supervision and ordered to do 150 hours' community work.

He was also prohibited from employing anyone under 16 without permission from probation officers.

The police prosecutor said police were considering appealing against the sentence to further seek reparation for emotional harm.

After widespread concern over the number of cases having suppression orders, Parliament passed changes to the Criminal Procedures Bill concerning suppression. The bill will come into effect early next year.

- Herald on Sunday

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