Case Number: 894

Council Meeting: AUGUST 2002

Verdict: Upheld

Publication: Evening Post

Ruling Categories: Names Suppression Of

The New Zealand Press Council has upheld a complaint against The Evening Post concerning the publication of the name of the complainant in that newspaper when there had been made a suppression order pursuant to s140 of the Criminal Justice Act 1985 by the trial judge preventing publication of the name of the complainant or any information that might lead to identity. The complainant had been a witness in the trial of Mark Edward Lundy for murder which trial took place in the High Court at Palmerston North in February 2002.

It is not in question that in the edition of The Evening Post of March 8 2002 in the course of reporting the evidence of another witness the complainant’s name was inadvertently mentioned. Neither is it in dispute that there existed the said order for suppression in favour of the complainant.

The response of the editor of The Evening Post was that the printing of the suppressed name was an oversight by the newspaper for which he apologised in writing to the trial Judge, the complainant, and to the Press Council. The oversight was caused because at the time the order was made the reporter was out of the courtroom and had not been personally aware of the order. That is mitigation of the dereliction, but not a legal excuse.

The matter of the publication of the name was referred by the trial Judge to the Crown Law Office who in turn referred it to the Police, who decided, in the circumstances not to lay any charges arising out of the oversight. The Police letter to the complainant referred to the “technical” nature of the breach.

There is no dispute on the facts as the newspaper admits it was in breach of the suppression order but in the circumstances described. Nevertheless the Council is obliged to uphold the complaint which it does.