New Zealand has a shameful record of name suppression. Far too often judges have allowed accused people to keep their identities secret without offering any cogent explanation.

Two prominent cases have now illustrated just how far into farce this can descend. In both, people granted name suppression without asking for it have chosen to reveal their identities before their cases reach court.

The first involved charges laid in November by the Department of Labour over the Pike River explosion. Almost immediately, former Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall sought a lifting of the court order, and identified himself as the 48-year-old who had been charged.

This week, three of the South Canterbury Finance five charged with committing the country's biggest white-collar fraud, including former chief executive Lachie McLeod, outed themselves. In so doing, they made a nonsense of the SFO's notion that it was not appropriate to name them until they appeared in court.


Their action also illustrated that, as is normally so, name suppression creates a whole new set of problems. In the case of South Canterbury Finance, it cast suspicion over all the previous directors, management, and advisers.

In terms of Pike River, Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn noted there had been a "huge amount" of speculation about who had been charged, with people not involved getting caught up in it. The actions of the charged executives not only acknowledged this unfair consequence but underlined the prosecuting agencies' folly.