Sisters argue for lifting of offender’s suppression

September 2, 2015 | By More

High Court-panoply1Two sisters who were sexually abused as children are arguing in the High Court that name suppression should be lifted on their abuser 45 years later, in a case said to have wide implications for the suppression system.

The women, Karen Beaumont and Ann-Marie Forsyth, applied last year to have their own name suppression lifted, with the aim of exposing their abuser.

A judge allowed the suppression automatically granted to the victims of sexual offences to be lifted, but the suppression order granted to the man when he appeared in court in 1994 has been allowed to continue. The validity and existence of the order is now being argued.

The two women have asked the High Court to review the court’s decision last year about continued suppression for the man, arguing that the order is no longer required since it is not necessary to protect the identities of the victims.

The man was charged with 15 offences of sexual offending against two children. He was convicted in the Christchurch District Court at a three-day jury trial and was sentenced to a year in jail. He served six months.

Counsel for the two women, Nikki Pender, told Justice Cameron Mander that court records showed that an interim suppression order was made in the Lower Hutt District Court in May 1994, but there was no record of a continuation of the order at the next appearance, and no record of a final suppression order being made.

When the man’s convictions were published in 2010 by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, a complaint was made to the Privacy Commissioner, which was later settled. The Court of Appeal made a ruling that in terms of the privacy action, a suppression order had been in force at the time.

The women are now arguing that the suppression order was made inappropriately, remained in force inappropriately, and that it ceased to be appropriate once the women’s own suppression was lifted.

Jonathan Eaton QC, counsel for the man, said the man had believed that he had the benefit of a final suppression order at the time of his sentencing. Justice Mander asked him for the basis for his argument that the court could infer that the issue of name suppression was addressed at the sentencing.

Mr Eaton replied that the women recalled expressing strong opposition to suppression, and it was “inconceivable that everyone forgot to deal with suppression at the sentencing”.

It was an extraordinary failure by all those involved, if it was not addressed at the time, he said. It was now grossly unfair to the man that the court was now being asked to speculate about the issue.

Having a suppression order made which could be reconsidered at any time would mean that offenders would never be able to move on with their lives.

He raised the question of whether other aspects of cases might be open to review at later stages. “The scope, the potential, is just extraordinary,” he said.

He pointed out that the interim suppression order had suppressed the man’s profession as well as his name. He asked why the judge would have suppressed the profession if the order had been solely to protect the complainants.

He did not believe that the suppression order in this case would have been made “conditionally”. “I have never heard of a conditional suppression order.” The delay “starved” the court of the essential evidence to make a reliable decision.

The publicity had already had enormous consequences for the man and had destroyed his career.

Justice Mander reserved his judgment.

 

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