What’s in a name? A history of New Zealand’s unique name suppression laws and their impact on press freedom

  • Francine Tyler Massey University (Wellington)
Keywords: court reporting, contempt of court, crime reporting, fair trial rights, media law, name suppression, New Zealand, press freedom, privacy, open justice


The principle of open justice, including the media’s right to attend and report on criminal courts, must be balanced with the protection of individuals’ privacy and an accused person’s fair trial rights. Prohibiting media from identifying those involved in criminal cases is one way privacy and fair trial rights may be protected in New Zealand. Court news was not always restricted in this way: 115 years ago all parts of criminal court proceedings could be reported and media decided what information was censored. In 1905, New Zealand judges were given the power to suppress court evidence to protect public morality, and 15 years later, the power to suppress the names of certain first offenders to give them a second chance. The laws now stretch to suppressing many kinds of evidence and the identities of some people accused and convicted of New Zealand’s most serious crimes. Investigation of the 115-year-long evolution of New Zealand’s name suppression laws illuminates a piecemeal, but severe, curtailment of media freedom and a trend of imposition of increasingly complex laws which journalists must keep abreast of, understand and observe to prevent appearing before the courts themselves.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...



Cobbe, J. (1930). Offenders Probation Amendment Bill. New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 226, 220-222.

Findlay, A. M. (1967). Criminal Justice Amendment Bill. New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 353, 3628-3638.

Findlay. A. M. (1974) Criminal Justice Amendment Bill. New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 394, 4467-4471.

Hanan, J. R. (1967). Criminal Justice Amendment Bill. New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 352, 2924-2926.

Jenkins, J. (1905). Criminal Code Amendment Bill. New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 132, 580-584.

Lee, E. (1920). Offenders Probation Bill. New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 188, 359-362.

Lewis, C. (1905). Criminal Code Amendment Bill. New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 132, 238-239.

McGowan, J. (1905). Criminal Code Amendment Bill. New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 132, 238-239.

McLean, G. (1905). Criminal Code Amendment Bill. New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 132, 580-584.

Stewart, J. (1954). Criminal Justice Bill. New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 304, 1925-1942.

Webb, C. (1954). Criminal Justice Bill. New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 304, 1925-1942.


Child Welfare Act 1925.

Child Welfare Amendment Act 1927.

Children and Young Persons Act 1974.

Children and Young Persons Amendment Act 1982.

Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989. (Renamed Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.

Contempt of Court Act 2019.

Crimes Amendment Act (No.2) 1982.

Criminal Code Amendment Act 1905.

Criminal Code Amendment Bill 1905.

Criminal Investigations (Blood Samples) Act 1995.

Criminal Justice Act 1954.

Criminal Justice Act 1985.

Criminal Justice Amendment Act 1967.

Criminal Justice Amendment Act 1969.

Criminal Justice Amendment Act (No. 2) 1975.

Criminal Justice Amendment Act 1976.

Criminal Justice Amendment Act 1980.

Criminal Justice Amendment Bill 1975.

Criminal Procedure Act 2011.

Evidence Amendment Act (No. 2) 1985.

Evidence Amendment Act 1986.

Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Amendment Act 1997.

Judicial Proceedings (regulations of reports) Bill 1935.

Juvenile Offenders Act 1906.

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Amendment Act 1977.

Offenders Probation Act 1920.

Offenders Probation Amendment Act 1930.

Offenders Probation Amendment Bill 1929

Offenders Probation Bill 1920.

Summary Proceedings Amendment Act, No. 76. (1986).


A flaw in the law (1920, December 22). Lyttleton Times, p. 6.

A man’s iniquity (1905, May 18). Lyttelton Times, p. 7.

Attack on the press (1937, April 5). New Zealand Herald, p. 8.

Auckland Star (1921, March 24). Auckland Star, p. 4.

Day by day (1924, May 30). Waikato Times, p. 6.

Editorial (1921, January 4). Press, p. 6.

Gay, E. (2019, November 3). Name suppression: How the uniquely Kiwi ‘hush hush policy’ became law and morphed over a century. Sunday Star-Times, p. 27. Retrieved from https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/117058919/name-suppression-how-the-uniquely-kiwi-hush-hush-policy-became-law-and-morphed-over-a-century

Grossly indecent act (1923, October 22). Poverty Bay Herald, p. 5.

Hurley, S. (2019, November 25). Several legal reasons Grace Millane’s killer continues to have name suppression. NZ Herald. Retrieved from https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12288193

Judicial proceedings (1934, July 7). Otago Daily Times, p. 12.

Local and General (1921a, February 2). Evening Post, p. 6.

Local and General (1921b, May 3). Evening Post, p. 6.

Local and General (1929, September 9). Evening Post. p. 4.

Not for publication (1920, December 21). Sun, p. 7.

NZ move to suppress accused’s name (1975, April 24). Canberra Times, p. 2.

Quite pardonable difference (1925, November 28). NZ Truth, p. 3.

The courts today (1920, November 24). Evening Star, p. 7.

The Criminal Code Amendment Bill (1905, July 1). Lyttelton Times, p. 4.

The ‘hush-hush’ policy (1920, October 27). Wairarapa Daily Times, p. 4

Very inadvisable (1920, October 22). New Zealand Times, p. 4.


Ackland, R. (2018). Australia: A brief history of recent court suppression orders. Gazette of Law and Journalism. Retrieved from: https://inforrm.org/2018/12/30/australia-a-brief-history-of-recent-court-suppression-orders-richard-ackland/

Barrett, J. (2012). Names suppression orders and Web 2.0 media: The New Zealand experience. European Journal of Law and Technology, 3(1), 1-10.

Brandwood, J. A. (2017). You say ‘fair trial’ and I say ‘free press’: British and American approaches to protecting defendants’ rights in high profile trials. In E. Barendt (Ed.), Media freedom and contempt of court (pp. 1412-1451). New York, NY: Routledge.

Buckingham, D. (2011). Keeping justice blind online: suppression regimes and digital publishing, 12 Otago LR 557.

Canadian Judicial Council. (2007). The Canadian justice system and the media. Canada: Canadian Judicial Council.

Cheer, U. (2015). Burrows and Cheer: Media Law in New Zealand (7th ed.). Wellington, New Zealand: Lexis Nexis.

Crown Prosecution Service. (2018). Contempt of court, reporting restrictions and restrictions on public access to hearings. Retrieved from https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/contempt-court-reporting-restrictions-and-restrictions-public-access-hearings

Davis, C. (2001). The injustice of open justice, [Austlii online version]. Retrieved May 1, 2020, from http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/JCULRev/2001/7.html

Eckersley, K. (2016). Name suppression until conviction: An argument in support of a return to s45B of the Criminal Justice Act 1954 (Unpublished LLB research paper, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand). Retrieved from https://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/handle/10063/5223

Jones, K. (1995). The suppression discretion: Name suppression law in New Zealand (Unpublished LLB (Honours) dissertation), Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand). Retrieved from http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/handle/10063/7181

Judicial College. (2016). Reporting restrictions in the criminal courts April 2015 (revised May 2016). Retrieved May 1, 2020 from https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/reporting-restrictions-guide-may-2016-2.pdf

Lazar, C. (2012). New Zealand’s litigation-related name suppression policies: A workable model for the United States. University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review, 20(1). Retrieved from: https://repository.law.miami.edu/umiclr/vol20/iss1/4/

McLachlin, B. (2003). Courts, transparency and public confidence – to the better administration of justice. Deakin Law Review, 8, 1-11.

Metcalfe, K. (2018). Publication bans are hurting the national conversation. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. Retrieved May 1, 2020 from: https://www.cjfe.org/publication_bans_are_hurting_the_national_conversation

Ministry of Justice. (2020). Justice Statistics data tables. Notes and trends for 2018/2019. Retrieved from: https://www.justice.govt.nz/justice-sector-policy/research-data/justice-statistics/data-tables/

New Zealand Law Commission. (2008). Suppressing names and evidence. (Issues Paper 13). Retrieved from https://www.lawcom.govt.nz/sites/default/files/projectAvailableFormats/PDF.pdf

New Zealand Law Commission. (2009). Suppressing names and evidence, (Report 109). Retrieved from https://www.lawcom.govt.nz/sites/default/files/projectAvailableFormats/NZLC%20R109.pdf

Papers Past (2020). NZ Truth. Retrieved from https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/nz-truth

Patel, S. (2018). Suppression orders – balancing individual and public interests. Retrieved from: https://www.districtcourts.govt.nz/about-the-courts/j/suppression-orders-balancing-individual-and-public-interests/

Pearson, M., & Graham, C. (2010). Suppression orders: reskilling journalists and the judiciary. Australian Journalism Review, 32(1), 97-114.

Reihle, A. (1996) Canada’s Barbie and Ken murder case: the death knell of publication bans. Indiana International and Comparative Law Review, 7(1), 193-222.

Stace, M. (1976). Name suppression and the Criminal Justice Amendment Act 1975. British Journal of Criminology, 16(4), 395-399.

How to Cite
Tyler, F. (2020). What’s in a name? A history of New Zealand’s unique name suppression laws and their impact on press freedom. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 26(1), 279-293. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v26i1.1093
Articles (Unthemed)