Survivors of sexual assault over the age of 18 (and young people and children under the age of 18) going through the court process, are automatically provided with permanent name suppression by the court. This is to protect them from having their names published in connection with the offending. Permanent means that this is in place for their entire life, including posthumously. Permanent name suppression can only be lifted by a Judge.   Survivors over the age of 17 can apply to have their name suppression lifted. For children and young people under the age of 17, lifting name suppression is not an option. The Criminal Procedure Act (2011) considers that young people and children require this protection, until they are adults and old enough to understand the broader implications of lifting their name suppression.

Applying to Lift Your Permanent Name Suppression

Not all survivors feel that they need to have their name permanently suppressed as they go through the court process, or after the offender has been sentenced.

Maybe they want to be able to speak openly about their experience, to not feel silenced. Some survivors may want to speak out to shed light on the abuse and their abuser. Maybe they don’t want to have to hide what happened as the shame is not theirs to carry. They may want to speak out so other people going through similar experiences, do not feel that they are alone, as they once did.

It is a good idea to talk with your support people, family and whānau if you are considering this. Below is some information to help you consider this process. 

Survivors going to trial, sentencing or a pre-recorded cross examination (PRH) hearing

If there is an active criminal court process and you do not want your name suppressed, you can apply to have your name suppression lifted at no charge. You will need to advise the Officer in Charge who will put together a statement from you for the Crown lawyer. 

In the statement, they will write down your age, views and reasons for wanting to lift your name suppression and that you understand the nature and effect of this order i.e., your name being allowed to be published in connection with the offender. 

The Crown will submit your application to have your name suppression waived and request a hearing with a Judge to address this. 

Factors that can influence your name suppression being lifted

In certain cases, the defendant may have been granted a name suppression order under s200 of the Criminal Procedure Act (2011). The grounds for this could be that being identified could lead to hardship for them or their family, or that it could potentially bias and influence a jury at a future trial. This is a high threshold to meet, and not all defendants are successful maintaining their name suppression throughout a court process.

However, if the defendant has name suppression, then your application can not be considered to meet the threshold for having your permanent name suppression lifted.  It might seem unfair that you are not able to tell your story of what the defendant did to you, because they are being protected by the system.  It is, but that is our current law.

Check with the Officer in Charge as to whether the offender has name suppression. At any stage during the court process, if the defendant loses their name suppression, you could then apply to have your name suppression lifted.   

The offender has already been sentenced

If you want to lift your permanent name suppression and it has been more than 28 days since the offender was sentenced, you can file an application to the court on your own behalf or you can engage a lawyer to act on your behalf. 

If you want to lift your permanent name suppression and it has been more than 28 days since the offender was sentenced, you can file an application to the court on your own behalf or you can engage a lawyer to act on your behalf. 

If you want to file your own application, you must be over the age of 17. You can go to your local court registry and they can advise you on how to put through your request to a Judge requesting to waive your permanent name suppression.

Your request to lift name suppression is best presented as a letter to the Judge, explaining your reasons for wanting to lift name suppression, your age, and that you understand that you can be identified in connection with the offender, and understand the implications of being connected through publications and media to the offender. We strongly recommend that you go through this process with a support person and/or advocate who works with survivors, as this is not a well-treaded path.

If you engage with a lawyer, legal fees can vary, potentially in the early to mid-thousands. Try and get as many quotes as possible. The lawyer will help prepare and then submit your application. If the offender has maintained name suppression throughout the criminal justice process, your application to lift name suppression may not be accepted. See above Factors that can influence your name suppression being lifted

Things to consider, and discuss with your support people

Often survivors do not want their name suppressed, as they want to be able to talk about what was done to them, to tell their own story.

However, if name suppression is lifted, then others can tell their version of your story too.  The media is usually present even when others are not allowed in the court, and they can publish details of your experience, your name and the offender’s name.  You would have no control over how they portray you and your experience. People from the public may write unhelpful comments in response to media articles. Many survivors struggle with how their experiences are portrayed by the media, even with name suppression, so this is worth considering.

Many court documents are available online, so if your name is not suppressed, any member of the public can find out written information from the court process.  This might include sentencing notes in which the Judge refers to what happened to you or notes something from your victim impact statement.  If there is an appeal, these documents can also include written information about the offender’s version of the events and are available online.

There might also be people in your life that you do not feel safe with.  Consider how you would feel if they knew about your experience, approached you about it and had an opinion and/or posted about it on social media?

Lifting name suppression is not a reversible decision, once lifted, it cannot be suppressed again for these charges.  

What supports do you have around you? Lifting name suppression would be a new chapter in your survivor journey, so having support as you navigate this new territory will be invaluable.

If you decide to apply to have your name suppression lifted, you are not alone.  More and more people are doing this.  If you decide to keep the name suppression in place, you can change your mind at any point and go back to the court to have the suppression lifted if you want to.