Name suppression has been lifted on a teenager who blackmailed an older man by text messages about their alleged sexual relationship in the days leading up to his suicide.
The woman, now aged 18 but 17 at the time of the offending, is Angie Rose Wilson who has been serving a home detention term and doing community work since her sentencing in the High Court at Christchurch in June.
Justice Christian Whata refused to grant final name suppression last week but granted Wilson time to file any appeal against his decision. That deadline expired at midnight and no appeal papers were filed, so the decision was released.
Psychological assessments prepared as part of the sentencing process remain suppressed.
Wilson had been warned by the police about a previous blackmail attempt involving another man before the offending where she pleaded guilty.
Justice Whata said: “Ms Wilson accepts that the blackmail was a contributing factor to his suicide. Ms Wilson, however, was not charged or convicted with any offending said to cause the death of the victim.”
The blackmail victim was a 40-year-old man who had met Wilson because of his business.
Wilson texted him asking for money and when he refused to pay she threatened to “go round saying your [sic] paying for sex from a 17 yr old”. She demanded “3k” or she would tell everyone.
After a series of texts, man told his partner what was happening and the next morning he committed suicide. Later that day, another text arrived from Wilson telling the man to “make sure there’s 4k in there (her bank account) tomorrow ur will tell everyone ur a dirty old man”.
Kerry Cook represented Wilson at court where she pleaded guilty and sought final suppression. Justice Whata delayed that decision for a further hearing, submissions, and a psychological assessment.
In the meantime, Wilson got on with her 10-month home detention sentence and 100 hours of community work.
The family of the victim was firmly opposed to permanent suppression for Wilson.
Mr Cook argued that it should be granted because of the disproportionate effect that publication would have on Wilson, and because of the adverse impact on her rehabilitation where she was making significant progress.
Justice Whata said that a very high level of hardship had to be established for permanent suppression to be granted.
He regarded Wilson’s age as a special factor. She was aged 17 at the time, which triggered consideration of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. He cited another case where youth was seen as a factor. The ability to make wise judgments was seen as the last part of the brain to develop, and adolescents were prone to react with impulsive and aggressive behaviour.
There was a potential for the cognitive, emotional, or psychological immaturity of a young person to contribute to their breach of the law.
He could not say that the consequences for Wilson amounted to “extreme hardship”, and decided to lift the suppression order.
The judge said: “Blackmail is an insidious form of offending. It will be rare for permanent suppression to be afforded to blackmailers.”
He said that open reporting was inherently valuable to the system of justice but he urged media accurately to report Wilson’s culpability and acknowledge her youth. “The value placed on open reporting is undermined by even the slightest hyperbole and the unfair harm caused by it.”