Name suppression for a former All Black who yesterday pleaded guilty to child assault flies in the face of Parliament's aims, says a legal expert.

The former rugby star is the latest in a long line of top sportsmen who have appeared in criminal courts and been allowed to keep their identities secret.

Yesterday, he pleaded guilty to assaulting a child in September. An Auckland District Court judge granted him name suppression until his next appearance - and it's possible his name may never be able to be published.

The man, in his 40s, could get a discharge without conviction when he is sentenced in February and could apply for a permanent court order banning publication of his name.


The court heard the boy's school wanted him examined to ensure he had not suffered any long-term injuries. It is believed the case is one of excessive discipline, and the former player has been ordered to undergo anger management counselling before he next appears in court.

He was reportedly granted name suppression because of his standing in sporting circles and in the community as well as to protect the identity of the complainant.

Legal experts say the name secrecy goes against Parliament's wishes to tighten suppression laws and a child safety advocate says well-known people have even greater responsibility to act positively.

Another former high-profile All Black appeared in a Wellington court last week and he, too, was given name suppression.

In that case, the 45-year-old was charged with assaulting his partner while out celebrating the All Blacks World Cup victory over France, resisting police and possession of cannabis.

The Criminal Procedure Bill, which was passed in October, makes it clear that "wealth, reputation or public awareness" should not be factors in gaining name suppression. It will come into effect in March next year and allowed for a strong presumption of open justice, Auckland University Faculty of Law associate professor Scott Optican said.

"In terms of the current law this is one of the reasons the Criminal Procedure Bill was passed because name suppression is so open ended and often goes out without any explanation or rationale from the judges at all. It doesn't mean it's not justified in some cases ... but the current provision that allows it is very broad-based."

The new law was intended to "bring more order to the chaos" and to guide the discretion more, Mr Optican said.


If the former All Black was given a discharge without conviction he might have higher grounds to get permanent name suppression because the suppression was a way of not allowing the consequences of the offending to be disproportionate.

However, Mr Optican said in that instance a person was already escaping without penalty. "That's about as much as you're entitled to in terms of not having to face the consequences of your actions because it would be disproportionate to the harm. You shouldn't get name suppression on top of that."

Associate Professor Bill Hodge, who also works at Auckland University, told the Herald although it was a minor assault the defendant was a top sportsman who should not receive name suppression because of his fame.

"Perhaps the victim, who is a child, would be identified. That would be the only exception I'm willing to give if it compromises, identifies, embarrasses the child ... sportsmen should not get name suppression because they're sportsmen ... if a child is involved and could be identified then I could maybe see what the district court is doing."

Mr Hodge said the continued use of name suppression for well-known people was troubling for the public.

"I think the public have shown their displeasure at celebrities getting name suppression on the grounds it would hurt them a lot more because their name is their reputation and that is their business. I don't think most people have any agreement of that whatsoever."


Barnardos chief executive Murray Edridge last night said his organisation campaigned strongly for the smacking ban so children would be treated properly.

Mr Edridge said he was most interested in change of behaviour rather than a punitive punishment. "If you have a high-profile person ... there is a particular responsibility. They need to think about the role modelling they offer and again send the message that the behaviour is not acceptable. What would be great is if the ex-All Black concerned said 'this is me and this is what I've done and it's not okay' and to get good messaging out of this would be a good outcome."