The identities of two men accused of murder have appeared on several blogs and at least one forum a day after a judge banned news websites from publishing the names.
Judge David Harvey yesterday took the unusual step of preventing the names and images of two men accused of murder from being reported on the internet while allowing newspapers, TV and radio to name them and use photos.
The two men - aged 23 and 22 - appeared before Judge Harvey in the Manukau District Court charged in relation to the murder of Weymouth 14-year-old John Hapeta. The men are named and pictured in today's Herald print edition.
Judge Harvey granted applications that allowed the media to photograph and film the pair and report their names. But in an unprecedented move he ordered that the information must not be placed on the internet.
However, the names have now appeared on an online forum in New Zealand.
One New Zealand-based blog also named the men but then decided to remove their identities.
David Farrar, of Kiwiblog, wrote on the decision:
"Judge Harvey seems to be trying to do a middle course between total name supression and no name supression. It is an interesting concept, but one that does raise significant issues.
As far as I can tell he is not worried if potential jurors hear the name on the news tonight or in the newspaper tomorrow, but doesn't want them to be able to Google the name (and I have just done Google searches on their names) once the trial starts. The issue of jurors doing research on defendeants on Google is a growing problem.
However by banning the names online, this may lead to overseas blogs reporting the names deliberately. In fact overseas newspapers may also do so, as this ruling may be one of the first in the world - to apply only to internet media."
Two other blogs have published the names in direct opposition to the judge's ruling. One boasted that it is based in America and is therefore not bound by a judgement in the Manukau District Court.
At the same time, the names have also been transmitted by twitter, an online social networking service used by thousands of subscribers to pass on short messages.
The Herald cannot link to any of these sites because to do so would break the suppression order.
Meanwhile, the issue of digital replicas of newspapers has been highlighted by the ruling. While Judge Harvey suppressed the information appearing on online news sites, he allowed publication in newspapers. However, the two main newspaper groups in New Zealand, APN and Fairfax, both work with companies which publish digital replicas of its newspapers online.
The Herald has removed links and references to its digital replica until further legal advice can be sought.
Judge Harvey said he was "concerned with the viral effects of digital publication" and the long-lasting effects information on the internet had. He was concerned about "someone googling someone's name and being able to access it later".
Auckland University law expert Associate Professor Scott Optican said it was strange some media outlets had been restricted and others hadn't been.
"It strikes me as odd. What is the judge trying to do - stop mass dissemination of their images?"
Professor Optican said if that was the case the images and names wouldn't be available to broadcast media because they could be repeated or saved.
Newspaper articles could also be cut out and saved. The ruling also relied on the assumption that people would actually seek out information if the case came to trial.
"The problem is that it's speculating that people will be searching [for the names] and also speculating what they'll find."
Professor Optican said it had been accepted for years that crime and justice stories would be available on the internet and that some would find a more permanent home there.
He said he "didn't quite understand" what the judge was wanting to achieve and hoped he would explain what the judgment meant.
- NZ HERALD STAFF