A former political party figure charged with indecent assault will keep his name under wraps until his trial next year.
His lawyer Ian Brookie successfully argued the case could have become a political football in an election year, jeopardising his client’s right to a fair trial.
Brookie defused what was alleged to be a potential election bombshell in two hearings about a month ago in the Auckland District Court.
Judge Anna Skellern recently released her reserved judgment to parties in the case, granting the man ongoing interim name suppression until his trial, scheduled to start on August 19, 2024.
The Crown opposed ongoing name suppression.
He faces nine charges in total, covering two complainants dating from alleged offending in the 1990s.
Three charges cover alleged indecencies with a boy aged between 12 and 16 in March 1995.
Another three charges laid by police in January allege he indecently assaulted a man or boy aged over 16 between 1995 and 1997, covering the same complainant as the first three charges.
The final three charges allege indecent assault on the second complainant, covering the alleged indecent assault of a man or boy aged over 16 between October 23 and 24 in 1999.
Judge Anna Skellern found the threshold of extreme hardship required for ongoing interim name suppression was met because widespread publication of his name would likely render the man unable to support himself.
The judge said the alleged offending was not linked to his recent senior political role. The man was not an MP.
“I accept the publication of the applicant’s name […] against the backdrop of his former role in a prominent political party would very likely result in the case becoming the subject of intense media interest, and a political football,” her judgment said.
“This is particularly the case in election year.”
The suppression order means some of the arguments advanced for and against suppression, as well as the name of the political party involved, cannot be reported.
The Crown, in opposing ongoing suppression, said the man was no longer a political figure and is not a household name.
There was no evidence he would not be able to obtain alternative employment and therefore the test for extreme hardship was not met.
At a June 13 hearing, Brookie argued publication of the man’s name would turn the story into a national political issue during an election year, rather than a court report focusing on the facts of the case.
Brookie argued the political dimension of the case drives the interest from media, resulting in an intense and unfair interest in the case that risks prejudicing his right to a fair trial.
Crown prosecutor Alysha McClintock argued the threshold of extreme hardship was not reached and the man’s name should be published.
He was not as prominent as entertainment figures who were household names and who had been granted lengthy periods of interim name suppression, she said.
“He’s a former political figure,” McClintock said. “He’s not asserted by the Crown to be a household name.”
McClintock said the man had argued potential employers were not contacting him, which he blamed on the allegations.
But no actual potential loss could be tied to publication, she said.
“Recruiters aren’t calling him and he blames this case,” McClintock said.
Brookie argued the facts of the case were unfairly cast in a Herald article on a US company targeting prominent Kiwis offering reputation management in the mistaken belief they were the political figure in question.
But McClintock described that as an overstatement, saying the report was compliant with the judge’s interim orders for suppression.
The man had also taken issue with a Stuff report describing the alleged victims as “underage boys”, which was also rejected by McClintock.
“But of course, some of the charges relate to complainants aged 12 to 16,” she said.
She also rejected the suggestion that publication would affect his fair trial rights.
“The mere publication of [the man’s name] does not mean that he can’t get a fair trial.”
In reply, Brookie said a new opportunity for work had arisen for his client, which would be scuppered by the publication of his name.
“Let’s take a step back and consider the nature of the publicity that’s going to run here,” Brookie said.
The man was bailed after his first appearance when charged in January and he remains on bail. Court documents show the abuse is alleged to have taken place in two towns in West Auckland and Waikato.
George Block is an Auckland-based reporter with a focus on police, the courts, prisons and defence. He joined the Herald in 2022 and has previously worked at Stuff in Auckland and the Otago Daily Times in Dunedin.