A person with political ties argues they would suffer irreparable reputational damage if their name suppression lapsed in the case of a convicted former rich-lister.
A prominent political figure is fighting to keep their identity secret after being mentioned several times at the trial of a wealthy businessman found guilty of indecent assault and corruption.
The Herald and Stuff asked Judge Russell Collins last year to revoke his interim suppression order for the political identity, which had been made nearly three years ago in the Auckland District Court.
The media organisations were successful, however, the political character appealed against the decision, which was heard today by Justice Geoffrey Venning at the High Court in Auckland.
The businessman, who also continues to enjoy name suppression, was found guilty by a jury at the same court in March last year of indecently assaulting three men in the early 2000s, 2008 and 2016.
He was also convicted of twice trying to pervert the course of justice by offering a bribe for the 2016 victim to drop their claims, including an elaborate attempt which has become known as the Gold Coast plot.
During the High Court trial, the businessman told jurors it was the purported association of the political figure which attracted him to hiring PR consultant Jevan Goulter and his firm Goulter & Associates for what he claimed were potential reputational damage issues.
After being first charged in February 2017, the businessman said there were rumours he would soon be named in Australian media linking him to the indecent assault allegations.
"[The political figure] was someone who was very good at solving public relations problems," he told the court in his evidence.
Instead of a PR problem, however, the jury found the businessman hired Goulter to travel to the Gold Coast in May 2017 in an attempt to dissuade the 2016 indecent assault victim — the first of the three to go to police — from continuing with their complaint.
"The whole notion we were going to Australia to stop media from publishing something is ridiculous," Goulter told the court about the trip, which included a meeting at the five-star Palazzo Versace hotel.
It was the second of two failed attempts — orchestrated by the businessman — to stop the case.
Within 24 hours of returning to Auckland from the Gold Coast, Goulter and his associate Allison Edmonds met with the businessman's manager at Family Bar on Auckland's Karangahape Rd.
Their discussions were recorded by Edmonds and throughout the conversation, the political figure was mentioned — mostly by Goulter who alleged he was a business partner of the character.
Goulter repeatedly claimed he and the political figure were seeking a higher fee for further efforts to dissuade the businessman's victim.
"So you know here is how I figure it, my business partner [the political figure], you are aware of and [the businessman] is aware of [them], thinks that I should be upping the fee on you big time," Goulter told the manager, according to the recording.
Later in the conversation Goulter adds: "If the expenses aren't sort of covered, sort of by the end of tomorrow, [the businessman] has another problem … and it's not me, it's [the political figure] and he doesn't want [them] as a problem."
The businessman's manager replied: "Yeah, yeah I would not mess with [the political figure] … [they're] infamous."
The emergence of the recording saw the businessman's first trial aborted halfway through the Crown's case during March 2019. In his decision revoking the political figure's suppression — which was not opposed at the time — Judge Collins said if the Family Bar recording had been proposed as evidence in the District Court he would not have given them anonymity.
Goulter and Edmonds, meanwhile, were granted immunity from prosecution from the Solicitor-General in exchange for their evidence for the Crown, which was reviewed and remained after the recording came to light. The pair also initially had interim name suppression before it was later revoked.
During her evidence in the High Court, Edmonds also said the political figure was aware of the Gold Coast rendezvous.
She explained to jurors she overheard a conversation between the political character and Goulter after returning from Australia.
"I don't know at what point [the political figure] knew, but she knew about it."
The political figure provided a formal statement to the court and was on the Crown's witness list for the aborted first trial but was ultimately never called to give evidence before a jury.
When police spoke to them, the political figure said they knew the wealthy businessman but had not been engaged professionally and denied any involvement with the Gold Coast conspiracy, Judge Collins' decision explains.
The political character also said they had not received any money or been instructed by the businessman about potential publicity surrounding the indecent assault allegations.
In Judge Collins' decision, he said: "From the [political figure's] formal statement it can be ascertained that [they] knew Mr Goulter had a business relationship with [the accused businessman] regarding a matter before the Courts and that Mr Goulter had visited Brisbane at some point in relation to that."
But the judge added the "only real inference" was that the political figure had no real knowledge or involvement with Goulter and the businessman's conspiracy.
Police did not interview the political figure after the emergence of the Family Bar recording.
Today, the political figure's lawyer, Davey Salmon QC, said Goulter lied when uttering a "highly defamatory slur" about his client.
Salmon said Goulter's claims of the political figure's involvement were "extremely scandalous".
In a subsequent statement to police, Goulter said his comments about the political figure during the Family Bar recording were untrue. He did, however, accept he talked to the political figure about his own name suppression affidavit and prior to the Family Bar meeting sought and took advice from them about his position.
He also said it was possible the political figure was at a downtown Auckland apartment where he discussed the Gold Coast plot with the businessman's manager and left after the manager arrived.
Justice Venning reserved his decision after today's hearing, which included short arguments from the Crown and Bell Gully lawyer Tania Goatley for the media.
His judgment, however, is unlikely to be the end of the debate after Salmon told the court if the decision was unfavourable for his client he was instructed to "take the next step" to the Court of Appeal.
Meanwhile, the businessman, who is represented by David Jones QC, was due to have his appeal of his convictions heard next month. However, it will now be held at the Court of Appeal in September.
Prior to his sentencing last May, the former rich-lister seemingly made a desperate plea for letters of support from those who know him to offer to the judge and potentially avoid prison.
"I would doubt I would survive any period in prison. In these circumstances innocent people can and do rot in jail only to be cleared some time later. Such is the law," he purportedly wrote in an email to more than 100 people and organisations.
However, Justice Venning sentenced him to two years and four months in prison.
Despite this and following two previously unsuccessful attempts for bail pending his appeal, the businessman was released from custody in August after a third effort as he awaits a challenge to his convictions and sentence.
The reasons given by the Court of Appeal, however, cannot be published by the Herald because of statutory suppression orders under the Bail Act 2000.
During the businessman's trial, Jones told jurors the complainants had fabricated stories for ulterior motives, including revenge over failed business ventures and wanting to be part of the MeToo movement.
The businessman's manager, who has name suppression, was also on trial and jointly charged over attempting to dissuade the complainant during the Gold Coast scheme.
He was found guilty and sentenced to 12 months' home detention.
He was sentenced to 11 months' home detention after admitting two charges of attempting to dissuade and bribe the 2016 indecent assault victim from giving evidence.