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The Supreme Court today declined permanent name suppression for a teenage sex offender, in a decision highly significant to the young survivors. Bankside Member Anna Adams acted as counsel to the survivors, and shares her view on the Court's decision.

"Today was a poignant day for the six brave survivors in this case and their parents, who have given so much to establish greater public accountability for serious sex offenders. I was proud to act as their counsel with Laura Fraser and Emily James of Chapman Tripp, supported by victims’ advocate Ruth Money.

We received today the Supreme Court’s decision to decline name suppression for LF, the young man sentenced in 2022 to 12 months’ home detention for multiple sexual offences (including rape) against these young women. The Supreme Court found that, while youth justice principles (including rehabilitation and vulnerability to harm from social media) are given significant weight in considering suppression for young offenders, the presumption of open justice remains – and the seriousness of the offending and views of the victims are of key importance.

‍The Court stated that LF’s offending was serious, not simply that of “a teenager who has made some terrible mistakes”, and recognised that “in these circumstances, there is obviously a public interest in knowing of LF’s character”. The Court found that public identification of an offender is an important part of the accountability required in criminal justice in addition to the formal sentence and convictions. This was in line with the survivors’ affidavit evidence given directly to the Supreme Court. The Court noted the survivors’ evidence of how the offender’s ongoing name suppression and lack of social accountability meant that their own recovery was incomplete, how they should be able to organise their lives without worrying about suppression, how there was a prospect that other victims might come forward if the offender was named, and how they were troubled that they could not warn other young women about LF’s previous offending.

For unrelated reasons suppression of LF’s name will lapse on 14 June, however the Supreme Court was unanimous in its decision against permanent name suppression. In my view this case demonstrates the law’s increasing understanding of the acute harm suffered by victims of sexual crime, affirms an open justice system as the best response to this harm, and recognises the way in which suppression can impede both the recovery of victims and justice itself."

Key sections of the Court’s decision

[91] The relevant factors to be considered here largely mirror those already discussed. On the one hand, there is the risk of harm to LF, the social media response and the desirability of his rehabilitation and reintegration. These issues are likely to be exacerbated by his youth.  

[92] On the other hand, the High Court was clearly right that there is a public interest in the public identification of LF. In assessing where the balance lies here, the factors of particular relevance are the seriousness of LF’s offending and the views of the victims. The two are inter-related.

[93] As to the first, we reject as simply untenable the argument for LF that the Court can proceed on the basis that he had an honest but unreasonable belief in consent.  As the High Court said, “[m]any of his victims told him to stop. One in particular was screaming out in pain before he stopped.” This was not a case of missing some social cues.  Nor does this argument gain any support from the summary of facts which, after all, LF accepted by his guilty plea.

[94] Further, as the High Court and the Court of Appeal said, this is serious offending. It took place over an extended period of time, involved a number of victims and was not simply that of “a teenager who has made some terrible mistakes”. The fact the offending was serious contributed to the transfer of the case from the Youth Court to the District Court. It is also clear from the sentencing remarks and the High Court judgment that LF’s risk of reoffending must be assessed, at best, as closer to moderate.  Further, while we are looking at the assessment of permanent name suppression at the time the decision was made, it is of some relevance here that we do not have the benefit of more recent reports as to the progress of his rehabilitation efforts.  

[95] In these circumstances, there is obviously a public interest in knowing of LF’s character. There are various ways in which a criminal offender is held accountable for offending. LF, for example, has had to serve the sentence of home detention imposed on him and, as we have discussed, his convictions will be seen as relevant when he seeks employment and in other facets of his life. That said, while certainly not the only means of providing accountability for a criminal offender, we accept, as the Court of Appeal said in DP, that public identification of an offender also takes account of offender culpability and is an important part of the accountability required in the criminal justice context.

[96] That there is a public interest in knowing of LF’s character is supported by the views of the victims. The offending has plainly affected their day-to-day lives and their recovery in a number of respects.  

[97] Several themes emerge from the victims’ evidence. First, it is said that ongoing name suppression for the offender means their recovery is incomplete. That is linked to the desire for LF to be held accountable for the offending by experiencing both penal and social consequences. Second, reference is made to practical problems experienced by the victims in complying with the existing name suppression order and that their concerns cannot be adequately addressed. Certainly, there is an interest in the victims being able to order their lives without these concerns. The youth and associated vulnerability of the victims at the time of the offending is also a factor. Finally, there is the prospect there may be other victims who might come forward if LF is named. The victims are also concerned about the potential there will be other complainants in the future, absent any ability to warn young women about LF’s previous offending.


[98] On balance, we consider permanent name suppression should not be granted.

Further information

For more media coverage, go to:

Link to the Supreme Court ruling:

M v R, LF v R  [2024] NZSC 29