A legal expert has questioned the name suppression granted to a millionaire businessman who pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine.

The Aucklander, who had admitted buying 112g of the Class A drug, was fined $1000.

Judge Russell Collins yesterday ordered permanent suppression of the man's name, occupation and company.

Collins said naming him would cause undue hardship to his family and business.


Professor of criminal law, Warren Brookbanks, of Auckland University of Technology, said today: "I struggle to see why permanent name suppression should have been given in this case as opposed to any other, but that was the court's decision.

"Cases like this are always going to be controversial. They create that perception that there's a law for the rich and a law for the poor.

"Rightly or wrongly, when somebody who is wealthy appears to get special favours in the law, people are going to ask questions and I fully understand that.

"All I can say is that I'm not apprised of all the facts where a sentencing judge is and who is having to make the order and of course it is a discretionary matter.

"The rules in the Criminal Procedure Act relating to name suppression are fairly tight. They have been tightened up, so presumably the law has been properly applied in terms of the criteria justifying permanent name suppression.

"But in the nature of things, because of the perception that justice has been bought, people are going to query that decision.

"If on exactly the same facts the person was an ordinary employee in a shop there would have been no question of name suppression. So you have to wonder why it is a businessman gets a special favour because it might affect his business.

"That's the risk you take when you become involved in drugs in any capacity. People need to realise if you get into that activity there is a real risk that you could be publicly exposed and that could be to your detriment."


Brookbanks said name suppression generally functioned well in the New Zealand court system.

"I think the courts are very well aware of public perceptions when they make suppression orders in cases like this."

Another legal academic, Steven Price, of Victoria University, said it was difficult to comment on the case without having seen the material presented in court.

"While I can say that the leading Court of Appeal decision says that some harm to family or business goes with the territory when someone is convicted, and that harm needs to be very significant before suppression is granted on those grounds, I can't tell how significant the harm was in this case without seeing the evidence, the arguments and the judge's reasoning.

"It's conceivable that suppression was justified here."

Associate Professor Scott Optican, a criminal law expert at Auckland University, said, "The granting of permanent name and detail suppression in a case like this is legally within the discretion of the judge - and for the reasons stated.


"However, it is by no means the norm, since the expected consequences of criminal conviction typically include varying levels of hardship to the offender or persons connected with him.

"Moreover, changes to the law in the last few years were meant to make it more difficult for permanent name suppression to be granted in criminal cases - particularly where a person's social, economic or public profile make it more likely that the details of their offending would be the subject of media attention.

"Regardless, and having said all that, it is still very much up to the sentencing judge - subject to the normal processes of appeal either by the Crown or members of the media."

The Crown and the Herald's lawyers argued against suppression, but the judge said naming the man would cause undue hardship to his family and business.

The businessman was a minor player in a covert police sting on a drug ring allegedly selling cocaine and methamphetamine to high-flying clients.

Operation Ceviche led to 13 arrests and the seizure of 760g of cocaine, worth $300,000 and $81,000 cash in late August.


Police were convinced the large amount of cocaine was for the businessman's personal use to feed his addiction, otherwise he would have faced the more serious charge of possession of a Class-A drug for supply.

The businessman was so addicted to cocaine he begged his dealer for a small amount to "keep him going" after a slight delay in his regular monthly purchase of an ounce (28g) of cocaine.

On another occasion, the wealthy Aucklander was so desperate to satisfy his habit, he drove across town to meet his supplier at 7.45am.

Drug squad detectives monitoring the dealer arrested the businessman after he left the address.