Judge suppresses web reports

Law Commission considers court order

Last updated 07:22 25/08/2008
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VICTIM: John Hapeta, 14, who was killed at a birthday celebration at his family home.

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The Law Commission is to consider a court order preventing the name and images of two men accused of murder from being reported online, a ruling one expert described as "absolutely extraordinary".

The two men, aged 23 and 21, were remanded in custody when they appeared in Manukau District Court charged with murdering 14-year-old John Hapeta.

Judge David Harvey allowed their names and images to be published on television news bulletins and in newspapers, but would not allow them to be published on the internet.

Judge Harvey reportedly said that he was "concerned about someone Googling someone's name and being able to access it later". He was also "concerned about the viral effect of digital publication".

Law Commission President Sir Geoffrey Palmer said today that the order would affect a commission study into name suppression.

"It will have to be taken into account ... this is a very interesting development from the point of view of our project."

He had never heard of such an order before, but suspected it was to do with the huge rise of "googling", which jurors could potentially do at home on nights of the trial.

University of Canterbury law lecturer and media law expert associate professor Ursula Cheer told Radio New Zealand the judge's restriction was "absolutely extraordinary".

She did not believe internet publication of the accused names would be anymore detrimental than ordinary print publication.

Lawyers for Stuff.co.nz are considering the suppression order this afternoon.

Media commentator Russell Brown told 3 News that the ruling was "unusual". He said it had the feel of an experiment to it.

"A point that needs making is that Judge Harvey is no mug when it comes to the internet. He has written a text book on cyber-law in New Zealand.

"On a technical level he probably knows more about the internet than any other judge in the country," Brown told 3 News.

Judge Harvey's textbook on the internet and law is called internet.law.nz.

Brown says that bloggers will be unhappy that the main-stream media has access to something they don't.

The two men each face three further charges. 

They were remanded in custody to reappear in Manukau District Court on Friday.

A 15-year-old boy also appeared in Manukau Youth Court today facing charges of assault with intent to rob and using a pistol in the commission of a crime.

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He will reappear in Manukau Youth Court on Friday.

 

 - with NZPA

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