An Auckland investment fund manager accused of assault and burglary, whose lawyer argued the media was only interested in the case because the man was “white and rich”, will keep his name secret until at least the start of his trial.
Judge Anna Skellern this week released her judgment declining the man’s application to keep his name secret until verdicts are reached in his trial, scheduled to start on March 11 next year.
But Judge Skellern found there was a real likelihood publication of his name would bring an end to his glittering finance career.
As a result, the threshold of extreme hardship required for a continuation of the interim suppression until the start of the trial was met, the judge found.
At that point, his defence team would be able to challenge the evidence brought by the prosecution, and Judge Skellern left it to the trial judge to determine if suppression should continue until verdicts were reached.
The judgment was delivered following a colourful hearing a month earlier.
His lawyer John Munro said the strong media interest in the case arose because the man was “white and rich”, a claim rubbished by the judge.
“There is no evidential basis for that submission, and I completely reject it,” Judge Skellern said in her judgment.
The man earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges of wounding with intent to injure and burglary following an alleged backyard fracas with his neighbour in a leafy Auckland suburb.
He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison if convicted and has been on bail since he was charged after his arrest on Good Friday this year.
At the hearing last month, Munro argued his client would suffer extreme hardship via damage to his reputation if his name was published before he could defend the allegations.
He also argued publication of his name would affect his right to a fair trial.
He produced affidavits from people who had worked with the man. Munro said they supported his argument that his “very specialised job” and strong reputation would be jeopardised by being named.
“Will he lose his job? Of course he will,” Munro said.
“He will not get another job. Not with this sort of allegation.”
Robert Stewart, a lawyer acting for media organisations including the Herald, argued against continuing suppression.
He said the Court of Appeal had made clear that the ordinary consequences of having a defendant’s name published after they were charged do not constitute the level of extreme hardship required for ongoing suppression.
That was the same for everyone, whether they were rich and white or poor, brown and a labourer, Stewart said.
In reply, Munro described Stewart’s labourer analogy as facile.
“A labourer wouldn’t lose his job, and if he did, he would be able to find another job,” Munro said.
He said the consequences of being named in connection with serious charges were not ordinary for a man of his client’s role and standing.
“It’d be incredibly unfair for this man to be cast across the papers,” Munro said.
Crown prosecutor Sam Teppett also opposed continuing name suppression.
Teppett said a defendant needed to prove more than just a loss of livelihood to meet the threshold for extreme hardship.
“Violent offending carries more of a public interest because the interests are to safeguard the public,” he said.
The Herald is unable to publish the name of the man’s employer or those of the people who wrote supporting affidavits without risking a breach of the ongoing interim name suppression order.
The victim of the incident, which was captured on CCTV, is a 65-year-old who had just sold his business after a successful career and was looking forward to a motorcycling trip around Europe with his wife.
But he now requires ongoing hospital treatment, and it was unclear whether he would regain sight in his damaged eye in the weeks after the attack.
The name of the couple cannot yet be revealed for legal reasons.
The alleged assailant, who holds a senior management role at a firm specialising in managed funds and KiwiSaver, was arrested shortly after 7pm following the Good Friday fracas near his $3 million property in a leafy inner-city suburb.
His employer declined to comment after the allegations surfaced.
Police charge that he was unlawfully on the victim’s section when he committed the alleged attack, which is the source of the burglary charge rather than any allegation anything was stolen.