Case Number: 3441

Council Meeting: 30 October 2023

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: The Press

Principle: Privacy
Children and Young People

Ruling Categories: Court Reporting
Names Suppression Of

Stuff published an article on 14 September 2023, headlined Devout victim of conman left unable to say the Lord’s prayer. This reported the sentencing of a fraudster who had befriended an elderly woman in a retirement village before emptying her bank account of $20,000.  It noted that he had used his two sons to help gain the woman’s trust.

*XX complained that the fraudster was well known and people knew he was the father of her two sons. She asked Stuff to remove mention of them from the story to protect them.

She said that she and her children had name suppression and Stuff had breached this by mentioning them. Her children had been severely affected over the years, particularly after an earlier story about the fraudster was published.

Her boys, who were aged 10 and 12, had been bullied and teased by other children and on the day after the story was published, they both refused to go to school. Both also wanted to quit sports because they had been mentioned in the story.

“I am requesting as a mother who is trying to protect her children who have had a terrible last few years, to please get them [Stuff] to remove their mention in the articles.”

The Press said it was sorry the children were suffering but the story did not identify them to anyone who did not already know who their father was.

“Those awful comments must have been made by people who know him and who his children are. Not mentioning that he had children in our story would not have changed this. I reiterate that the way [the offender] used his children in his offending is relevant.

The Media Council is not able to rule on a complaint that a suppression order has been breached. That is a matter that can only be considered by the Judge who issued the order and for the matter to be taken further it will need to be raised with the Court.

Setting that aside, the Council can understand the complainant’s concern for her sons. It is unfortunate that such pain is one of the consequences that many families suffer when a parent is convicted of a serious crime.

Criminal courts are open to the public and, subject to certain rules and orders, the media are entitled to report cases that come up. The prosecution of offenders is a matter of significant public interest and the media have an important role in reporting cases.

They are, however, expected to abide by ethical standards as set out in the Media Council’s Principles.

The Council notes that this was a straightforward report of a court case.

As stated above the Council cannot rule on the issue of name suppression. However, it has considered the complaint under Principles (2) Privacy; (3) Children and Young People and (8) Confidentiality. It does not believe a case has been made to show any of these principles were breached.

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.

*The complainant’s name was suppressed by the Court.


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