New Zealand Police v WW [2021] NZDC 18319

Published 15 September 2021

Pre-charge suppression orders — name suppression — media interest — court jurisdiction — Criminal Procedure Act 2011, ss 200-210 — COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirements) Order (No 11) 2021 — X v R [2020] NZCA 387 — Teacher v Stuff Ltd [2019] NZHC 1170. Two prospective defendants, plus a third person with a connection to them, sought name suppression in advance of a first court appearance. No charges had been laid against the prospective defendants, but if any were laid they would allege breaches of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirements) Order (No 11) 2021. The alleged incident involved the prospective defendants breaching COVID lockdown rules on the strength of essential work exemptions, and had attracted considerable attention in mainstream and social media. The Court was doubtful that it had the power to make the orders requested. The Criminal Procedure Act conveyed no power to make orders until either charges were laid or defendants had made a court appearance. However the prospective defendants argued that orders were necessary, given the level of discussion on social media and other non-mainstream media forums. The Court found that it lacked the statutory powers to make the orders, but that it did have jurisdiction under its incidental and implied powers. Therefore the Court made orders prohibiting publication of the names and other details of either of the prospective defendants or the third person. The orders were to expire on the evening of the day that they were made; in the meantime the prospective defendants and third person could seek pre-charge non-publication orders from the High Court. Judgment Date: 14 September 2021.