Abused sisters lose High Court bid to name attacker
Two sisters who fought to unmask their abuser four decades after they were sexually assaulted have failed to convince a High Court judge.
Anne-Marie Forsyth and Karen Beaumont from Christchurch, have been engaged in a lengthy and expensive legal battle to expose the man who committed sex crimes against them.
As victims, they won the right to have their name suppression lifted in August last year. They wanted their abuser exposed, but the judge allowed a suppression order granted to the man in 1994 to continue.
Billed as a test case for other survivors who wanted to stop sex offenders hiding behind victims' statutory protection, they asked the High Court to review the court's decision last month.
In a just-released judgment, Justice Mander refused to quash their attacker's name suppression.
Two decades had passed, the man had rehabilitated and not reoffended in the belief he had permanent name suppression.
Mander had to consider the man's situation in 2015, not at the conclusion of his trial in 1995.
Removing his name suppression after such a long period would have "disproportionately punitive consequences", would cause extreme hardship and could repunish him.
Recent publication of his name on the internet, and potential further publicity, had caused significant financial and personal problems and he had lost a job, Mander said.
"These are consequences which are commonly associated with being convicted for sexual offending and would not ordinarily justify name suppression. However, for such repercussions to be visited upon a person for the first time some two decades after the criminal justice process has ended is, to my knowledge, unprecedented."
The man's lawyer, Jonathan Eaton QC, said at the hearing last month the man believed final name and occupation suppression order was made at his sentencing in the Lower Hutt District Court in May 1994. It would be unfair to revisit the issue.
The sisters' lawyer, Nikki Pender, who declined to comment on the judgment until she had spoken with her clients, said last month there was only a record of an interim suppression order.
Mander found error in the trial court's approach as to whether the man's name should be permanently suppressed.
The women were abused in the 1970s when they were 10 and 14. They complained to police in 1994. A year later the man was convicted of three offences of performing an indecent act and two counts of indecent assault and sent to prison.
The sisters argued the man's identity was not made public only because of suppression orders protecting their own identities, which became obsolete after their suppression was lifted.
Eaton said if suppression orders could be reconsidered at any time, offenders would never be able to move on with their lives, he said.
Prior to the hearing, one of the sister said the legal fight had cost $13,500 so far and could top $30,000. She said they had to show they could fund the legal action and any costs if they lost by proving the equity in their homes.