Secrecy can't hide name from PM

By Patrick Gower

Photo / Alan Gibson
Photo / Alan Gibson

John Key has learned the identity of the entertainer guilty of an indecency charge through the grapevine of people circumventing the suppression order.

The Prime Minister yesterday admitted being curious about the entertainer's identity, and asking someone he knew.

Many New Zealanders now know the entertainer's name, and Mr Key said the ease with which he was given the answer showed suppression orders were not working.

"I can't divulge my source, but it is not an official one," said Mr Key. "I asked someone who I thought might know, and they told me."

The entertainer, who this month admitted forcing a teenage girl's face into his genitals, was granted permanent suppression because publicity would have a detrimental effect on his career and his record and ticket sales.

Mr Key said he agreed with Justice Minister Simon Power about the need to stop the emerging "special class" of high-profile people using their status to get name suppression.

"As a general rule, transparency is good," the PM said.

It was unfortunate that high-profile people got extra attention at court, but "that's what comes with it".

He said suppression orders now "generally don't work" because of the internet.

The entertainer involved in the latest case has been involved with a New Zealand charity, but a website featuring him has been taken off the internet.

The charity did not respond to a Herald request last night to explain why reference to the entertainer had been taken off the site.

Mr Power has indicated he will change the law to stop cases of "celebrity justice" like that of the entertainer, or an All Black who in 2005 was granted name suppression after pleading guilty to assaulting his pregnant partner.

The Law Commission this month proposed changes to name suppression rules, but said well-known people should still be able to argue for secrecy if publication of their name would cause "extreme hardship".

It also wants internet service providers or content hosts to be subject to a "notice and take down" order, requiring them to immediately remove or block access to material if in breach of a court suppression order.

It is not known how widely the orders would apply. If providers were expected to block customers' access to sites carrying material, it could require new technology.

But if the orders were just for information on New Zealand sites, it would be largely irrelevant as most offending is done on overseas websites.

The Government is likely to make changes to suppression rules in the Criminal Procedure Bill next year.

- NZ Herald

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