Police probe name slip

Last updated 05:00 24/11/2012

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A Timaru person may become the first to be prosecuted under new laws around the breaching of court-imposed name suppression.

The alleged breach, on social media, comes with a possible fine of $25,000 or six months in prison.

Timaru police are investigating a complaint of a possible breach of suppression, allegedly leading to the identification of the man charged in connection with last week's alleged abduction and assault of a Timaru boy.

The 26-year-old entered no plea to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to the boy, when he appeared in Timaru District Court on Wednesday. He was remanded in custody without plea until December 5.

Judge Joanna Maze granted the man interim name suppression, but comments claiming to identify him and making threats against a man appeared on social media within hours of his court appearance.

Senior Sergeant Randall Tikitiki confirmed a complaint has been made to police alleging the court's suppression order has been breached. He would not comment on who had made the complaint.

"We are looking at what material is there and comparing that with the court order."

Asked whether police would also be investigating the threats made, Mr Tikitiki said that was possible, explaining it was not unusual for police to discover other offences during an inquiry.

He could not comment on whether police were looking at a single offender, or whether the inquiry would consider all those who had discussed the man on social media, as the investigation was still in its early stages.

It is believed to be the first time South Canterbury police have dealt with such a complaint.

New laws in March increased the maximum penalty for an individual from $1000 to $25,000, or, if the breach was knowingly or recklessly made, six months in prison.

University of Canterbury law professor Ursula Cheer said yesterday such prosecutions were rare. It was not clear whether the courts would view differently the person who first breached the suppression order to those who had repeated or followed the breach.

There are generally two types of suppression orders: automatic suppression which covers specific people, evidence and details in criminal cases and in specialised courts. The other form is ordered by the judge and can deal with the suppression of anything from names to individual facts, sections of evidence or even (at least temporarily) suppression of a whole case.

Most of the rules surrounding suppression have been long established and apply not only to the print and broadcast media but also to internet news sites and other internet applications including blogs and social media.

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REASONS FOR SUPPRESSION ORDERS

Courts make suppression orders for various reasons and a defendant may get name suppression where publication would: Cause extreme hardship to the person, or any person connected to them; Cast suspicion on another person causing them undue hardship; Cause undue hardship to a victim; Create a real risk of prejudice to a fair trial; Endanger the safety of any person; Prejudice the maintenance of the law; Prejudice the security or defence of New Zealand. Some suppression orders automatically apply, such as the name or identifying particulars of the victim of sexual offending. If suppression does not automatically apply, an application must be made, which can be opposed. Each application for suppression is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Judges receive a range of information as to why they should consider granting suppression. Decisions relating to suppression can also be appealed. The suppression order applies until the appeal is heard in the next highest court. It is illegal to circulate suppressed information and the judiciary can make a complaint to the police to bring charges against people who have breached the law. The penalty for an individual who knowingly or recklessly breaches an order is a maximum six months imprisonment, while all other breaches carry a maximum fine of $25,000.

- The Timaru Herald

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