A political figure has again argued they should maintain secrecy after a convicted businessman and other witnesses mentioned them during a high-profile sex and corruption trial last year.
Today, the Court of Appeal was asked to consider whether two judges had earlier erred when determining that media should be allowed to publish the identity of the person with political links.
The New Zealand Herald's publisher NZME and Stuff jointly asked for the court order protecting the name of the person to be revoked after they were mentioned several times during last year's trial of a prominent businessman, who also continues to have suppression.
The two media companies successfully asked Judge Russell Collins to overturn his original Auckland District Court suppression order — made three years ago — for the political identity.
An appeal by the political figure to the High Court earlier this year was unsuccessful, while a fresh application for permanent suppression was also dismissed.
The political figure's lawyer, Davey Salmon QC, told the Court of Appeal at a hearing in Wellington this afternoon that the allegations against his client were "highly defamatory and indisputably false".
He said the political figure had been dragged into an "awful conspiracy" to protect a sex offender by a man he described as a "fabulist and fantasist".
That person is controversial PR consultant Jevan Goulter.
When giving evidence at his High Court trial, the businessman told jurors it was the political figure's purported association with Goulter which attracted him to using the firm Goulter & Associates for what he said were impending reputational damage issues.
He claimed rumours were circling about indecent assault allegations against him, which would soon be published by Australian media.
However, the jury found that Goulter was hired for a different purpose after hearing evidence he travelled with a group to the Gold Coast in May 2017 in an attempt to dissuade one of the businessman's three victims from continuing with the case.
The elaborate and failed attempt to silence the victim — the first of the three to lay a police complaint against the businessman — has become known as the Gold Coast plot.
Shortly after returning to Auckland, Goulter and his associate Allison Edmonds then met with the businessman's manager at Karangahape Rd's Family Bar to discuss the conspiracy.
Their discussions were recorded by Edmonds and throughout the conversation the political figure's name is mentioned — mostly by Goulter who made several false claims, including that he would share payment with the political figure.
Salmon said the allegations were "scandalous because the transcript of the Family Bar recording is so appalling".
The Family Bar recording remained hidden until it emerged halfway through the businessman's first trial in March 2019, resulting in Judge Collins aborting it.
In a subsequent statement to police, Goulter said his comments about the political figure during the 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.
After hearing weeks of evidence last year, the High Court jury found the businessman guilty 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.
"Being in Auckland, it is the story, that particular sex trial," Salmon said today of the highly publicised case.
"It is unfair to suggest that being alleged to be involved in a criminal conspiracy wouldn't result in hardship," he continued, arguing for his client to remain anonymous.
Salmon said there was little public interest in knowing the identity of the political figure, nor was there any judicial or police error to shine a light on.
"The real public interest is why did Mr Goutler of all people get immunity?"
Goulter and Edmonds were both granted immunity from prosecution by the Solicitor-General in exchange for their evidence for the Crown.
Acting for the Herald and Stuff, Tania Goatley of Bell Gully told the Court of Appeal there was a significant public interest in publishing the name of the figure in a case which exposed how political connections, notoriety and money enabled a conspiracy to try and sidestep justice.
"The fact that [the businessman] thought he could hire [the political figure] is of particular public interest," she said.
The panel of Court of Appeal judges, consisting of Justices Forrie Miller, Ailsa Duffy and Rebecca Ellis, reserved their decision.
Salmon also indicated if the judgment went against his client he was instructed to take the case to the Supreme Court.
The convicted former rich-lister, meanwhile was sentenced in May 2021 to two years and four months in prison. However, he was granted bail by the Court of Appeal on a third attempt pending the appeal of his convictions and sentence, which is due to be heard later this year.
The businessman's manager, who has name suppression, was jointly charged and found guilty over attempting to dissuade the complainant during the Gold Coast scheme.
New Zealand entertainer Mika X, also known as Mika Haka, was also part of the conspiracy.
He was sentenced to 11 months' home detention after admitting two charges of attempting to dissuade the 2016 indecent assault victim from giving evidence.