The lawyer for a man who raped and sexually offended against six girls when they were all teenagers says the court should put the man’s rights over those of his victims.
The man, who is now 20 years old, sexually offended against six teenage girls when he was 14- to 17-years-old. He was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention last year.
He asked for permanent name suppression on the basis that publishing his name would be likely to cause extreme hardship or endanger his safety.
A woman connected to the man also applied to keep both their names secret. The Court of Appeal granted her name suppression but declined her application on his behalf.
At a hearing at the Supreme Court on Thursday, the man’s lawyer, Emma Priest, argued the principle of open justice did not apply to the Youth Court, and the idea of youth justice was to allow offenders the chance to rehabilitate.
Publishing his name would also be against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – which specified their interests should be put first, Priest said.
However, she acknowledged the offender and the victims in this case were covered by the convention, and both had contradictory interests.
“Obviously the interests come up hard against each other … in this case, we say that the rights of [the man] and [the woman] in seeking suppression, which is protected, that must trump, if you like, the rights of the victims. They have been able to tell everything but the names of the two appellants,” she said.
“I think there does need to be some consideration of what would publication actually achieve for the victims?”
However, Crown lawyer Zannah Johnston said there was public interest in naming the man, and the protections of the Youth Court did not apply after a person had aged beyond 18.
Naming the offender would not stop him from living a productive life, but would require him to take responsibility for his actions, she said.
“Accountability for behaviour is a youth justice principle,” Johnston said.
“It will make it more difficult, but at some point in his life he will be able to say, yes, I did some terrible, terrible things when I was young. After that I got diagnosed with autism, I’ve done these courses, I’ve learnt this, I now demonstrate how much I have changed my life.”
The victims were asking for no more than the usual consequences an offender of this type would face, she said.
Three of his victims, who had waived their own right to name suppression, wanted the man’s name be published for the safety of others.
Their advocate, Ruth Money, said the hearing was the latest step in an arduous process, which did not take into account the survivors’ views or suffering.She said the suggestion that the man’s rights should carry more weight than the victims’ was “abhorrent”.
“We are not talking about an allegation, we are talking about someone who has been convicted, who has admitted all of these multiple, I believe 10, charges against a number of survivors,” she said.
“The community’s rights and certainly the survivors’ rights should be privileged over anybody who has been raping multiple women … yes, this person was young when he was committing all of these terrible sexual assaults, but what’s always lost is so were the victims.
“Survivors have been gagged for long enough and it is about the impact of suppression on them.’
The justices reserved their decision.