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Judge succeeds in securing suppression of information for personal safety reasons

27 Jun 2024

| Author: Jamie Dierick

Criminal Procedure Act 2011 s 205(2)(c ) – suppression of evidence and submissions – whether publication of information is likely to endarger the safety of any person – real and appreciable risk to personal safety – open justice and public interest – concerns of appellant receiving favourable treatment as a judge – risk to personal safety outweighs public interest and open justice – suppression order granted.

 Farish v R [2024] NZSC 65 per Miller J  

 

On 4 August 2022, Ian Dallison, a Christchurch eye surgeon, attempted to kill the landlord of his business premises, Alberto Ceccarelli. Dallison inflicted serious injuries on both Ceccarelli and his partner, Antje Schmidt.

He subsequently pleaded guilty to one charge of attempted murder, a charged of wounding with intent to injure and three representative charges of unlawful possession of a pistol, restricted weapons and magazines.

On 28 April 2023, Dallison was sentenced to six years and 10 months’ jail.

At the time of the offending, District Court Jane Farish was Ian Dallison’s girlfriend. Farish knew nothing of Dallison’s plans and played no role in his offending.

Dallison made an application to suppress Farish’s name, address, occupation and other identifying particulars, on the basis that knowledge of their connection would place his own safety at risk in prison.

This application was granted at the District Court under ss 202(1)c), 202(2)(c) and 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, but revoked by the High Court.

Dallison went to the Court of Appeal, again seeking suppression of Farish’s identity on the ground that publication would risk his own safety.

Farish did not seek to have her name and relationship suppressed after Dallison was charged. She chose to intervene only after the Crown disclosed in the Court of Appeal other information that she had given to the police. This information was not connected to Dallison’s offending. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.

The key issue for the Supreme Court was whether the Court of Appeal was wrong to decline suppression of evidence and submissions under s 205(2)(c) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011.

The Crown and Stuff Ltd (appearing as an intervener), stated that there was a risk of unfounded speculation that the Farish was receiving favourable treatment because she was a District Court Judge.

Miller J acknowledged that this risk did exist, but said Farish had the same right as any other person to a suppression order on personal safety grounds.

He held that the threshold for a suppression order under s 205(2)(c) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, a risk to personal safety to Farish, had been met.

Miller J acknowleged that there was a strong public interest in the information and that the principle of open justice did apply, but held that this did not outweigh the risk to personal safety. Accordingly, Miller J was satisfied that an order was appropriate in the case.

 

Applicable principles: risk of public safety – public interest – open justice – risk of bias – equal treatment of applicants – judicial discretion

Held: Permanent order granted under s 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, prohibiting the publication of certain evidence and submissions.

 

Jamie Dierick is a law clerk working for an Auckland criminal defence barrister

 

Farrish 2024-NZSC-65

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