Heather du Plessis-Allan: Is the public getting tired of the rich and famous hiding behind name suppression?

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Tue, 14 Sep 2021, 6:58PM
(Photo / Getty)
(Photo / Getty)

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Is the public getting tired of the rich and famous hiding behind name suppression?

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Tue, 14 Sep 2021, 6:58PM

If there’s something the Wanaka escapees have learnt in the last 24 hours, it’s that public tolerance of name suppression for the rich and famous and athletic seems to be waning. 

Hands up if you don’t know their names already.

About midday yesterday, a friend of mine down south had already sent me the names of the couple and the high-ranking-official parent.

During yesterday’s show, the text machine told me plenty of other people listening also already knew the names.

And then last night, someone else sent me a screenshot of a facebook post which contains: 

The name and occupation of the 35 year old man 
The name and occupation of his girlfriend 
And name and occupation of his parent 

It then says: 

“this information is not yet subject to any suppression order.  Share, share, and share again… ASAP” 

The public clearly realized the pair was likely to go for name suppression given the high ranking nature of the parent’s job.

And so members of the public essentially took matters into their own hands and got that information out there as widely as possible before any courts could stop them.

By the time the court made that emergency name suppression ruling last night their names were known by many. 

What this tells you is that people are becoming increasingly irritated by the perception that celebrities, sports stars and rich people hide behind name suppression.

We’ve had so many examples of this just in the last few months: 

Zac Guildford trying to hide that he was the guy who punched a woman in the face two years ago in an incident described as savage and appalling.

Joseph Parker fighting for two years to hide his connection to a court case dealing with the importation of P into NZ.

The “promising young” Waikato rugby player facing charges of choking a woman and assaulting a child who has interim name suppression.

The prominent businessman convicted of indecent assaults on men who has name suppression.

Worries about people wrongly using name suppression prompted a law change ten years ago…  

But is it working? 

University of Auckland legal academic Bill Hodge reckons even though the law change made it clear that being famous isn’t a good enough reason, it seems judges "aren't taking it seriously enough". 

The bummer is that there are often really good reasons for name suppression, but after so much overuse of it, I’m not sure the public knows the difference any more.

Or cares.

And clearly, there are plenty of people prepared to make the court’s job harder.