Teacher on drugs, firearm charges won't be named

A schoolteacher on drug and firearm charges has kept his name secret due to the potential damage to his reputation and father's health.

The Central North Island man had been denied name suppression, but has successfully appealed the decision.

In a reserved decision, Justice John Priestley said the teacher's name would be suppressed until a defended hearing on December 6, when suppression would be reconsidered.

The teacher has pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of cannabis plant, cannabis seeds and drug-related utensils.

He has also pleaded not guilty to unlawful possession of two firearms in a public place. Judge Paul Geoghegan refused to grant him name suppression in July.

At that time, the teacher's argument for suppression was that he was a role model and the publication of his name would damage his and his school's reputation.

The school's principal wrote a letter to Judge Geoghegan expressing his concern about the release of the teacher's name and the impact it would have on the school.

Judge Geoghegan described the teacher's concerns as "speculative".

Justice Priestley disagreed, saying the judge "erred" when he dismissed the principal's reasons.

The teacher was also concerned about the impact the stigma of the charges would have on his sick father.

Justice Priestley agreed with his argument and said there were defences available to the teacher.

Although he could not speculate about the outcome of the defended hearing, he said "conviction was far from a foregone conclusion" and he must be presumed innocent at this stage.

Justice Priestley noted that if the teacher were acquitted, the damage to his reputation would be irreparable (if his name had already been made public).

"The defendant's position in his school community suggests that his influence and reputation go considerably beyond that which attaches to most schoolteachers."

- DAILY POST (ROTORUA)

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