Queenstown weightlifter loses name suppression

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard poses during a portrait session on December 8, 2017. Photo: Getty Images
Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has lost her name suppression in relation to a driving charge. Photo: Getty Images

Kiwi transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has lost the right to keep her name suppressed after being discharged  without conviction in relation to a driving charge.

Hubbard was charged with careless driving causing injury after a car crash in Queenstown on October 24, 2018.

The car fishtailed while she was travelling through a "sharp left bend'' and, eventually, collided with another vehicle which was carrying an Australian tourist couple in their 60s.

The driver suffered a spinal injury and had to be hospitalised for 12 days in Dunedin.

He also had to undergo surgery to correct the injury when he returned home.

On January 28, 2019, Hubbard pleaded guilty to the charge and offered to pay full reparation for the cost her victims had incurred and also $1000 for emotional harm.

One week later, on February 4, judge Bernadette Farnan discharged Hubbard without conviction and ordered her to pay $12,774.01 to the victims.

Ms Farnan noted the athlete was "a first offender for this type of offence, had pleaded guilty relatively early, was willing to undertake restorative justice, was genuinely sorry for the injuries and had recognised the emotional harm through the reparation payment she made.''

The judge also suppressed her name until 30 September 2019 because the "publication of Hubbard's name at that point would be likely to cause extreme hardship'' as Hubbard is trying to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

After that time, the judge permitted limited publication of Hubbard's name, occupation, sporting prowess and the summary of the facts.

Since November 2018, her lawyer Fiona Guy Kidd QC, successfully applied for suppression orders at each of the five stages of the court process.

However, after an appeal made by Stuff Ltd, the High Court in Invercargill overturned the suppression orders.

In his decision from July 9, Justice Gerald Nation said the district court judge was in error in finding there was a real risk that Hubbard "would suffer extreme hardship''.

He said Hubbard was aged 40 - so was not "vulnerable in the way courts recognise much younger people can be'' - and had no evidence the publication of her name would affect her financially.

"Publication of Ms Hubbard's name in connection with these proceedings may head to hurtful and bullying type of comments on social media but any hardship she might suffer from that is not likely to be any different from similar hardship she may well suffer in connection with publicity as to her sporting endeavours.''

Mr Nation also stated the district court judge was also mistaken in regard to the requirements for the second step of the legal test for suppression, which dealt with public interest.

"Had the media been able to publish her name at the same time as reporting the result of the proceedings, it would have been apparent to those interested that Ms Hubbard had accepted responsibility for what happened and had paid a significant sum in reparation.''

Justice Nation declared the media was "free to publish information'' from Hubbard's offending as it was presented to the district court.


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