A judge has declined an election candidate's desperate bid to
keep an assault charge secret - claiming political
"inconvenience" was not a basis for name suppression.
Retired Napier policeman Stuart Russell McLachlan, 67, who is
standing for Napier City Council at next month's elections
yesterday told Hastings District Court it "ought to be
ashamed of yourself" after losing his 10-day battle for
McLachlan was charged following an alleged assault on a
Havelock North Lotto shop worker on March 9.
Hawke's Bay Today found out about the charge and approached
McLachlan for comment for a story they were doing on the
case. McLachlan told the paper twice on Thursday, August 21,
that he had name suppression.
Hawke's Bay Today decided not to publish the story
because this could not be confirmed that evening. The next
morning, checks with the Hastings District Court revealed
McLachlan did not have name suppression. However, later that
same day, McLachlan successfully applied for interim
In his application he claimed publicity about the alleged
offence could be prejudicial to his election campaign.
He then presented his suppression application to Hawke's Bay
Today and was at pains to point out that he had a right to
secrecy. Voters had "no right" to know his name, he said.
Four days later Judge Bridget Mackintosh agreed to extend
name suppression until August 3.
At yesterday's hearing in Hastings District Court Judge Tony
Adeane said he had to be convinced that the publication of
his name would cause undue and extreme hardship. "The
principal basis for seeking continued interim name
suppression is that to do otherwise would be inconvenient to
him in his political ambitions," Judge Adeane said.
He said the principals of open justice meant this was not a
McLachlan, who in an earlier appearance told the court he had
received commendations from judges following a lengthy tenure
in the police force, claimed he was in the throes of applying
for his private investigator's licence and passengers'
Two hours later he reappeared in court to advance an
application to continue suppression on appeal.
Hawke's Bay Today deputy editor Mark Story addressed the
court and said McLachlan's name had been published online
since his appearance earlier in the day. "To re-impose
suppression at this juncture would make the court a party to
futility," Mr Story said.
Judge Adeane told McLachlan he had the right to appeal but
did not make an order for extended suppression.
"I've already given you the reason for my decision Mr
McLachlan. I didn't ask to see you here again."
The second-time council candidate told the judge his faith in
the justice system had been "shattered".
"You ought to be ashamed of yourselves."
Bell Gully, legal counsel for APN, which owns Hawke's Bay
Today, filed submissions on the paper's behalf, stating
the presumption of innocence "was not sufficient to displace
the application of the principles of the importance in a
democracy of freedom of speech, open judicial proceedings and
the right of the media to report the latter fairly and
Hawke's Bay Today editor Andrew Austin said the paper
believed strongly in the public's right to know what was
"The court will decide if he is guilty or not, but in the
meantime the voters can choose whether or not they want him
to represent them in public office. Our job is to inform our
readers and that is what we have done."
After court Mr Story said: "While we're mindful of the
presumption of innocence, this should never preclude open
justice or in this case a fully informed voting public.
Should publicity ultimately frustrate Mr McLachlan's
political campaign, then that's simply democracy at work."
A council candidate, who did not wish to be named, said
suppression had cast unjustified suspicion on other local
"Even if a single voter thought I was the one accused of this
offence, then that's one voter too many," he said.
McLachlan had twice been offered diversion but turned it
down, claiming he was innocent. He is due back in court to
defend the charge in November.
Attempts to contact McLachlan for comment yesterday were
- Hawke's Bay Today