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“Comedian” child sex accused name suppression

By Steven | December 21, 2009

It seems that a “comedian” has been granted name suppression in connection with charges that he has had unlawful sexual connection with a child under 12, his daughter.

This isn’t some namby-pamby judge covering up for a celebrity. This suppression kicks in automatically under the Criminal Justice Act, I think. Alleged sex crime victims are given name suppression under section 139. This is a rule set by Parliament, not a discretion exercised by a judge. It operates to suppress reporting of the name of the daughter – and any identifying details. That’ll include the name of her dad (because it identifies the daughter).

Free speech absolutists looking to circumvent this suppression might like to think about who they might be hurting here.

And we might not want to be too quick to rush to judgment. I have no insider knowledge, but this account provides some reasons to think the case against him may not be straightforward.

We might also spare a thought for NZ comedians out there. It’s a fairly small circle. Michelle A’Court is on the record saying that the defendant isn’t really a comedian.

Finally, 3 News and RadioLive might like to think twice about their report accusing Carolyn Meng Yee of breaching the suppression by telling Te Radar the suppressed name when seeking his comment.

First, it’s not clear from the story who exactly is doing the accusing. Te Radar doesn’t seem to be doing any actual accusing. It seems to be TV3/RadioLive itself.

Second, it’s not clearly an offence to tell someone a suppressed name. The offence is triggered by publishing suppressed material (or evading a suppression order). I’m not aware of any cases suggesting that this can be triggered by telling one other person.

Thirdly – how to put this? If I were a betting man, I’d lay good odds that there are journalists at TV3 and Radio Live who have told happily passed on suppressed names to friends and colleagues.  One would hope they might find the saddle a bit uncomfortable on that high horse.

Topics: Media ethics, Name suppression | 11 Comments »

11 Responses to ““Comedian” child sex accused name suppression”

  1. Blog Bits | Kiwiblog Says:
    December 22nd, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    […] Steven Price talks name suppression and says that merely telling someone the name one on one is unlikely to be considered publication. […]

  2. fit.fix007 Says:
    September 8th, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    My understanding is that under NZ law telling anyone apart from your spouse would be considered publishing.

    In this case the person not only got name suppression but also discharged without conviction.. this means that theoretically someone who has pleaded guilty to sexual violation of a 4 year old girl could get a job working in a kindergarten.

    The court in my opinion would have been reasonable in choosing one or the other (and possibly just a conviction with a suspended sentence and name suppression if they felt inclined) – it seem unreasonable for him to be in the same (if not better position) that someone who is found not guilty.

  3. Steven Says:
    September 8th, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Um. The court could not choose one or the other. As I pointed out, this suppression is automatically imposed by Parliament.
    I don’t know where you got the idea that telling anyone would be considered publishing, or that if so, spouses should be excluded. I’m not sure this has been authoritatively determined anywhere. But I doubt that telling a friend at a pub would count as publishing.

  4. fit.fix007 Says:
    September 8th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Telling or writing to one person is considered dissemination in the law of libel and defamation (except for spouses), and thus could be considered publication in this case too (the law doesn’t put a number on how many people you have to tell or write to.. there is no threshold to my knowledge unless you have case law??)

  5. fit.fix007 Says:
    September 8th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Ooh – yes I realize that name suppression is automatic – I was just suggesting that it shouldn’t be able to co-exist with a discharge without conviction.

  6. Steven Says:
    September 8th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Yes, telling one person is publication in defamation.
    No, there’s no exception for spouses.
    But anyway, that’s the common law of defamation, and it’s very unlikely that the courts will adopt it in interpreting the statutory suppression rules.

    I agree that the suppression/discharge double-whammy is troubling sometimes.

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