In New Zealand the law on complainant anonymity in sexual offence cases is statutory. The relevant provision is s.203 Criminal Procedure Act 2011 which provides for ‘automatic suppression’ of the identity of a complainant in specified sexual offence cases.
Section 203 applies where a person is accused or convicted of certain offences under the Crimes Act 1961, which are sexual offences. Anonymity is automatic in these cases and it is explicitly stated that ‘the purpose of this section is to protect the complainant.’
Section 203 provides that no person may publish the name, address, or occupation of the complainant unless the complainant is aged 18 years or older and there is a court order which permits publication. It is important to note that, while only the name, address or occupation of the complainant is referred to as being suppressed under section 203, the interpretation section of the Act makes clear that ‘name in relation to a person, means the person’s name and any particulars likely to lead to the person’s identification’.
In terms of the waiver process, the court must make an order where the complainant applies for such an order and the complainant is aged 18 years or older, whether or not they were 18 or older when the offence took place. The court must be satisfied that the complainant understands the nature and effect of their decision to apply for the order. In addition, for an order to be granted, in any case where publication of the complainant’s identity may lead to the identification of the defendant, there must be no order made under section 200 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which allows for the suppression of the identity of the defendant in some circumstances.
The identity of the defendant is not generally automatically suppressed (although there will be automatic defendant anonymity where the case relates to incest or sexual conduct with a dependent family member, for the purpose of protecting the complainant). However, it is possible in some cases for an order to be made under section 200, which allows for an order to be made to suppress the identity of the defendant in certain specified circumstances. If such an order is in place, then it is not possible for the complainant to apply to waive their anonymity if that would lead to the identification of the defendant.
If someone publishes the name, address, occupation or other information in breach of section 203, they have committed an offence and will face penalties under section 211 of the Criminal Procedure Act.
Nyree Collins, GCU Law Student
Seonaid Stevenson-McCabe, Lecturer in Law