It considered the risk publicising his identity posed to New Zealand and the offender himself
The Auckland High Court has granted an application for permanent name suppression filed by the defendant in a criminal case for terrorist-related offenses, taking into consideration both the risk exposing the defendant’s identity posed to society as well as to his own rehabilitation.
In V v R (2023) NZHC 1048, the defendant applying for permanent name suppression was charged and eventually sentenced for the storage and distribution of terrorist-related material and threats to carry out a terrorist attack.
Specifically, when the defendant was around 16 years old, he began to adhere to the extremist beliefs of ISIS, a designated terrorist entity. He stored various documentation relating to violent extremism and shared these materials with an individual online whom the defendant was unaware was an undercover police officer.
In 2021, the defendant stated that he wanted to carry out an attack on civilians in Auckland and discussed the possible details for the attack with the undercover police officer. He was searched and arrested before the attack could take place.
The defendant was sentenced to two years and five months of imprisonment before he applied for permanent name suppression, by which time he was 21 years old. During his time in prison, the High Court of Auckland noted that he had taken steps towards his rehabilitation and reintegration, including a meeting with one of the victims of the Christchurch Mosque shooting and regular sessions with a Maori mental health practitioner and a psychologist. He expressed hope for a normal life in the future.
The defendant’s application for permanent name suppression was not opposed by the Crown or the media.
Jeopardising the defendant’s rehabilitation constitutes “extreme hardship”
The court drew similarities between this case and that of George v R, (2021) NZHC 2681, which involved an individual likewise radicalised online and eventually charged with distributing footage of the Christchurch Mosque attack. There, the court held that the risk posed to the applicant’s rehabilitation met the high threshold of “extreme hardship” required to grant an application for permanent name suppression. It explained that publication of his identity could jeopardise the applicant’s rehabilitation and likely cause him “the same sense of persecution” and “cognitive biases” that had led him to adhere to extremism in the first place, condemning him to an “entirely negative” life the equivalent of extreme hardship.
The High Court of Auckland said the concerns laid out in George v R were equally if not even more applicable to the defendant in this case, as the defendant exhibited a mild intellectual disability alongside other vulnerabilities requiring long-term, intensive support.
The High Court ruled that permanent name suppression was required “to maintain the integrity of the rehabilitative efforts over time”.
Publication of the defendant’s name may endanger New Zealand
The defendant had previously hoped to become famous for the terrorist attack he had been planning to carry out, an objective the High Court noted he had abandoned by instead applying for permanent name suppression.
Still, the High Court recognised that those “similarly motivated to act as the defendant did” may be inspired by any publicity and attention received by the defendant and thus “may endanger public safety and prejudice the security of New Zealand.” For this reason as well, the High Court held that the publication of the defendant’s name should be suppressed.