A high-profile political figure has won the right to keep
details of his divorce secret after a judge ruled he was a
His messy divorce case included allegations of espionage,
infidelity, dognapping, theft, the involvement of three
Queen's Counsel, and a disputed allegation the man grabbed or
touched his wife's neck, tried to kick in the door of their
home and shouted abuse at her.
The couple were involved in a protracted legal battle through
the Family Court. The ex-wife has sought the right to speak
publicly and to her friends about the break-up, but the
husband has fought to keep the dispute secret.
The Herald on Sunday applied to the court to overturn the
suppression, saying it was a matter of legitimate public
interest and that the man had supported MPs who campaigned on
At a January hearing at the Auckland District Court, the
man's lawyer, Lady Deborah Chambers QC, sought
confidentiality orders on the grounds that he and his wife
were vulnerable people according to the law.
Anyone who has sought a protection order under the Domestic
Violence Act - even if the court refused to make the order -
is defined as vulnerable. The man and his wife had each asked
for protection orders against the other, at the height of
their acrimonious break-up, meaning they cannot now be
identified - even though the applications for protection
orders were rejected.
Judge David Burns said the man was a "robust public
person"and the vulnerable person clause in the Family Courts
Act was never designed to cover a person such as him.
But the ex-wife had acted "unwisely"in speaking to the media
about the case.
"My finding that the wife is likely to distort the truth and
what she says to media outlets is likely to be inaccurate or
exaggerated and as a result she is going to be reported even
though it has no relationship with the truth.
"There is a serious risk that parts of the judgment could be
misinterpreted or taken out of context. Also other innocent
third parties referred to in the judgment could be affected."
The judge did not accept the Herald on Sunday's argument that
naming the couple was in the public interest.
The husband had "acted appropriately and endeavoured to
support his wife, who was clearly unwell for a long period of
time before separation", Judge Burns said.
He added: "I do not consider he can be validly criticised,
and I am concerned that sensitive material sought by the wife
could be misinterpreted without the benefit of it being fully
"Accordingly I am satisfied that there is no public interest
to justify publication in this particular case."
The former wife is understood to be devastated at the ruling
as she believes her freedom of speech has been curtailed.
- By Bevan Hurley of the Herald on Sunday