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Businessman acquitted of manslaughter but denied permanent name suppression

9 Jun 2023

| Author: Jasmine Jackson

Permanent name suppression – extreme hardship – Criminal Procedure Act 2011, s 200(2)(a) – not guilty – manslaughter – D (CA443/2015) v Police – presumption of innocence – public interest – mental health

 R v McPhee [2023] NZHC 1186 per Gwyn J.

Connor McPhee was found not guilty of manslaughter in the Wellington District Court and applied for permanent name suppression on the ground of “extreme hardship”.

McPhee submitted his mental health satisfied the extreme hardship ground under s 200(2)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011.  A report filed by his psychiatrist noted his fears for his security and suggested his mental health would benefit from permanent name suppression. The report also noted McPhee’s concerns about his business interests as he was self-employed and ran his own business.

The Crown submitted McPhee had not established that publication would cause him extreme hardship. Further, the Crown submitted that even if his application passed the threshold, the court should not exercise its discretion to suppress his name because the presumption of open justice was not displaced by the competing factors in this case.

The court noted the psychiatrist’s report did not suggest McPhee was at immediate risk of self-harm and he was coping with trial-related anxiety better now than when he first sought help.

When interim name suppression was granted, the two principal factors in its favour were the combined effect of McPhee’s mental health and the importance of the presumption of innocence in the pre-trial stage. As McPhee was found not guilty, the court noted the pre-trial presumption of innocence was no longer pertinent. Overall, the court accepted the Crown submission that McPhee had responded well to his sessions with the psychiatrist and had implemented support mechanisms.

Furthermore, while the court acknowledged McPhee was concerned about an increased risk to his safety from the victim’s family, they were already aware of his identity as they had attended the manslaughter trial. Subsequently, the court was not satisfied that lifting the interim name suppression would cause extreme hardship.

Held: The application for permanent name suppression was declined.

Jasmine Jackson is an Auckland criminal defence barrister and a member of the ADLS Parole Law Committee.


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