Sex case diplomat named

The diplomat at the centre of an alleged sexual assault case can now be named after media organisations challenged a judge's decision to grant permanent name suppression.

He is Mohammed Rizalman Bin Ismail, and worked at the Malaysian High Commission in Wellington.

Ismail, who claimed diplomatic immunity, could not initially be identified because of a suppression order imposed by a Wellington District Court judge on May 30.

However, Malaysian media were now reporting the case, and its Foreign Affairs Ministry planned to hold a press conference about it today.

An urgent hearing to overturn the suppression ruling was held in the High Court at Wellington today, where the name suppression was overturned.

Media organisations, including the New Zealand Herald, challenged the decision to grant name suppression.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully earlier said the Solicitor-General had advised the Government abide by the suppression ruling while it was in place.

"I can't see any good public policy reason why you'd want to protect someone from publicity given there won't be a trial.''

Ismail, in his 30s, left the country after being charged by Wellington police with burglary and assault with intent to rape.

He had followed a 21-year-old woman to her Brooklyn home on May 9 when the alleged assault occurred.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs formally asked for Malaysia to waive diplomatic immunity, but it declined.

The Government said the man could still face charges in Malaysia.

MFAT called in Malaysia's Head of Mission last night to tell them that New Zealand expected Ismail to face the consequences of his actions.

Prime Minister John Key said the country had reassured MFAT that they were taking the issue very seriously.

"We made it quite clear that we were under no illusion about how seriously New Zealand took the issue, and we expect the person to be held to account,'' he said.

Lawyer for the media organisations, Robert Stewart, told the court the appeal related to a decision by Judge Bruce Davidson to grant name suppression.

His notes had not been released into reasons why he granted name suppression, which left media "flying blind'' because they would not know which aspects of the decision to appeal, he said.

The Malaysian Government was issuing a statement at 4pm today (NZT), where at least the country, and possibly the man's name would be released.

Media here would then be in a situation where the rest of the world would have the details, but if they shared those details, they would be in the "extremely invidious position'' of breaching court orders, Mr Stewart said.

Ismail was not represented at court, but Barbara Hunt acted as the court's amicus in the matter.

Police lawyer Grant Burston said the Crown's position was they did not oppose the appeal.

There did not seem to be an evidentiary reason for the judge to order name suppression as it would not identify the victim or prejudice any future trial because the man had invoked diplomatic immunity.

Justice Collins had the file in front of him, but there were some hand-written notes of Judge Davidson's he was unable to read.

Ms Hunt was the man's lawyer on the day of his first appearance and applied for the initial name suppression.

That was because he had not yet told his family, but he was represented by his employer.

Also because of the seriousness of the charge and health issues that needed to be explored, she said.

In later court dates the man had not been represented, she said.

"His interests do need to be considered.''

 

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