Prosecution for breaching paedophile's rights

PHIL KITCHIN
Last updated 05:00 06/04/2013

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The Human Rights Commission plans to prosecute the Sensible Sentencing Trust for breaching a serial paedophile's privacy.

It is understood the man, jailed in 1995 for historic offences of committing indecent acts on two girl relatives aged 10 and 14, has already received a $15,000 payout from police.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust, which relies on public donations, has hit out at the prosecution, and refuses to apologise to the man, or pay him any compensation.

"This is namby-pamby nonsense, with the state having a crack at a voluntary organisation trying to balance a crazy offender-friendly system," trust spokesman Garth McVicar said yesterday.

The trust had refused to agree not to publish the paedophile's convictions, and would vigorously defend any legal action by the commission, he said.

If the prosecution goes ahead, it is likely to become a test case on the contentious legal areas of privacy and name suppression.

It stems from the trust printing the man's name and details of his offending on its website. The commission says this breaches his privacy because the trust does not mention that he has name suppression.

However, neither the paedophile nor the commission have been able to supply a court record to prove he has name suppression.

A statement from the commission last night, saying the Office of Human Rights Proceedings was filing proceedings yesterday afternoon, still did not clarify whether the man's name was suppressed.

"An application for an order for interim name suppression is being sought," it said.

The commission says that the man, who rose to become a Wellington-based chief executive, lost his job, and suffered significant loss, humiliation and harm when his past was made public.

It says the trust had "interfered with" the man's privacy and had also refused to provide him with access to his personal information.

The long-running case is already believed to have cost a police officer his job, for giving details of the offender's convictions to a third party, who later passed them anonymously to the trust.

The paedophile complained to police and, in May 2011, police executed a search warrant on the Sensible Sentencing Trust to obtain the details.

The late Greg King, a Wellington criminal lawyer, acted pro bono for the trust in the case, and was told by the commission that the officer had lost his job, Mr McVicar said.

"Greg understood police also paid the man about $15,000 in compensation," he said.

In his exchanges with commission director Rob Hesketh, Mr King said the trust refused to compensate the paedophile or apologise to him for the loss of his job after a campaign in which the trust had played no part.

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"It would be extremely distasteful to all involved in this organisation to pay any money whatsoever to a convicted sex offender in these circumstances," Mr King told Mr Hesketh last year.

Mr McVicar said the trust removed the paedophile's details from its site when it was first alerted to the possibility of name suppression in 2009.

It asked the man's lawyer to provide proof that he had name suppression.

"We are still waiting for it," Mr McVicar said.

In January, the present commission director, Robert Kee, wrote to the trust saying it had not ensured it was publishing accurate information when it put the paedophile's convictions on its website.

Publishing the information without referring to "the fact there is a suppression order" breached the man's privacy, Mr Kee said.

But three paragraphs later, Mr Kee said he agreed with a judge's minute that said there is "no record on the file of a final suppression order" being made.

He said the sentencing judge's written decision was missing, but he believed the Human Rights Review Tribunal "could find on the balance of probabilities that there was a suppression order".

Mr McVicar said that, if the commission's prosecution was successful, it would show the Government talked tough on crime but allowed sex offenders to benefit from the privacy afforded by name suppression.

FOR AND AGAINST

On one side of the case is the taxpayer-funded Human Rights Commission, which includes the Office of Human Rights Proceedings and prosecutes cases under the Privacy Act.

On the other side is the Sensible Sentencing Trust, staffed by volunteers and funded by donations.

In the middle is the convicted paedophile, a 58-year-old Wellington man whose offending is alleged to have spanned 14 years.

He was jailed for a year in 1995 on five counts of committing indecent acts on two girls aged 10 and 14.

At the same trial he was acquitted of a further two charges of rape and four charges of indecent assault on young girls.

Twenty years earlier he was charged and acquitted in three separate rape trials.

He also has a conviction for careless driving causing death.

The man lost his job as a chief executive when members of his organisation learned of his sex offending. Documents obtained by The Dominion Post from members of the organisation said he had access to children in his work and had lied about being employed when he was in prison.

- The Dominion Post

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