A "miscarriage of justice" will occur if a man is refused permanent name suppression after admitting he assaulted two others at a drunken Labour Party youth summer camp, his lawyer argues.
The 22-year-old has not been identified since sexual allegations emerged from the camp, near Waihi in February 2018, sparking the criminal case against him.
Midway through a trial last year in the Auckland District Court, however, a plea deal was reached between the man's defence team and prosecutors after a jury was asked to consider five charges of indecent assault, relating to two men and two women.
The man ultimately pleaded guilty to two amended charges of assault for the allegations against the two men, and the charges against the two women were withdrawn and dismissed.
At his sentencing last November, the man was discharged without conviction but also refused permanent name suppression by Judge Russell Collins.
The suppression decision was then upheld on appeal by Justice Christian Whata in the High Court this year.
Today, the case reached the Court of Appeal with an application by the man's lawyer, Emma Priest, for leave to appeal again.
Priest said Justice Whata erred in dismissing the first appeal and had used a higher threshold test against her client because of the "highly disproportionate nature of media reporting in this case".
"A miscarriage of justice will occur if permanent suppression is not granted," she said at the hearing in Auckland this afternoon.
The impact of publication, she argued, will be grossly disproportionate to the offending after the dismissal of the sexual charges against her client, who was at today's hearing.
"Naming him, of course, will result with him being linked permanently on the internet to these [sexual] allegations."
She said the extensive reporting on the case was "a cause of extreme hardship but also a factor that will lead to extreme hardship".
"This is not a case of the public not knowing what went on, they know everything that went on," she said. "Without suppression, it is my submission, that the discharge without conviction is meaningless."
Priest also said it was easy for the courts to discount "misguided comments by uninformed people" on social media commenting on news events.
Facebook and Twitter users, she has said, have labelled her client a "sexual predator" and "the Labour Youth Camp pervert".
But she has also taken issue with public comments made by the case's prosecutor David Johnstone after the plea deal.
After the trial, Priest told the Herald the Crown had "quite properly withdrawn the allegations of sexual offending against my client".
"He has pleaded guilty to two minor assaults which he's always been prepared to take responsibility for. As I have said from the outset, my client is not a sexual offender and appropriately the Crown have now recognised that."
However, Johnstone replied: "It is not correct to say that the Crown accepts there was no sexual offending."
He said the Crown accepted if guilty pleas were entered to assaults then there was insufficient public interest in continuing the prosecution.
"No more than that," Johnstone said.
Priest said today: "Here we have a person of significant standing, who was one of the prosecutors in the case, who went on record with that."
Because of the political link, Priest continued, the case had gone "well beyond anything ever contemplated".
"It really has become a much, much greater story than anyone would have ever thought for offending of this gravity."
When making his decision, Justice Whata had considered the ongoing public interest in the case because of the initial sexual allegations and connection to the Labour Party.
"The combined seriousness of the alleged offending and the political dimension strongly engages the principle of open justice," he said.
The judge also pondered the prospect of continuing suppression until after New Zealand's general election in September.
But on reflection, he said in his decision, the political dimension precludes such a course.
The Court of Appeal judges hearing today's application, Justice Murray Gilbert, Justice Rebecca Ellis and Justice Sarah Katz, reserved their decision. It will be released in writing at a later date.
Justice Whata accepted the reputational impact on the young man by publishing his name was "likely to be severe".
"His life will likely be defined by these events for the foreseeable future. He will likely be identified and vilified, wrongly, as a sexual offender, and there is a real and appreciable risk that a career in his chosen profession will be denied to him.
"He is still a young man and thus more vulnerable to the full force of this publication harm. However, I do not think that there is enough evidence to show [he] will be ostracised."
Justice Whata said the harm the man was likely to suffer if his name is published was extreme in the ordinary sense of the word. But, he continued, the claimed hardship must be something that does not usually attend a criminal prosecution and, ordinarily, the distress and other consequences of media reporting - including vilification and job loss - would not qualify as hardship, let alone extreme hardship.
After the sentencing, one of the victims also spoke to Newstalk ZB and said the case had became a "political football".
Today, Crown lawyer Zannah Johnston, who is opposed to a permanent secrecy order, said both victims were also against suppression.
When last August's trial began, the court heard there had been heavy drinking at the camp, which was described by witnesses as a "glorified piss-up".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke at the event the day before the offending.
After the allegations came to light, Wellington lawyer Maria Austen conducted an external review of Labour Party procedures, which included several recommendations.
However, Ardern has said the report will not be publicly released while the court proceedings continue.
Former Labour Party president Nigel Haworth, who quit last September as separate sexual allegations within the party came to light, has said all the recommendations of the Austen report would be implemented.
Last month, the vice-president of Act Party's youth wing resigned from her role, claiming she has been a victim of sexual harassment.