22 Mar 2019

Man who named sex assault victim narrowly escapes conviction

11:24 am on 22 March 2019

A man who breached suppression in a sexual assault case has been left shocked and humiliated by the aftermath of his actions, his lawyer says.

Kerry Bolton

Kerry Bolton Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Kerry Bolton was a supporter of the Kāpiti District Councillor David Scott, who was last year found guilty of indecently assaulting a council staff member.

The day after the guilty verdict, Bolton rang a Wellington talkback radio station and twice named the victim, who had statutory name suppression.

On the day his judge-alone trial was due to begin, late last year, he pleaded guilty to the breach, but on Wednesday in the Porirua District Court, he sought a discharge without conviction.

Bolton's lawyer Michael Bott told the court his client had a clean record and it would be unfortunate for him to be convicted.

He said the suppression order had not been mentioned in open court and his client had no way of knowing of its existence.

"Now he's got the media, cameras here; [he's] bearing the brunt of this and being humiliated with his name out there when he didn't want it out there.

"Ironically, being prosecuted like this and having it splashed through the media, the public has no excuse because they now know it's done automatically. He wasn't put in that position and couldn't have had knowledge in that way."

Mr Bott said his client had made an honest mistake and to fetter citizens' rights to talk about what happened in court could potentially have a chilling effect.

He said unlike media companies, Mr Bolton was not part of a "multi-million dollar empire" but despite ill health, he could, over six months, pay $1000 emotional harm reparation to the woman he had named.

Consequences significant

However, police prosecutor Sergeant Paul Macky said it was inconceivable Bolton didn't know his victim's name was suppressed and he had not made any sworn statement relating to that.

"The consequences of the victim's name being out is also quite chilling and ... in relation to the offer of $1000 emotional harm reparation, I can state quite categorically now that the victim would find that incredibly insulting and not in any way an admission of remorse."

Judge Ian Mill said he had to sentence on the basis the offence was a simple breach and Mr Bolton didn't knowingly or recklessly break the law.

But he read from a statement in which Mr Bolton continued to maintain that ultimately the responsibility for publication lay elsewhere.

"'And I believe I've been singled out as an easier mark than the news media and because of the vindictive character of the complainant' ... he asks me to dismiss without conviction."

Judge Mill said if Mr Bolton's breach of suppression had been an unwitting disclosure he would have shown some remorse for the effect on the complainant but he had not done so and that raised the seriousness of his offending.

"The consequences for the complainant have been significant - she was then identified, she was approached by people who'd heard of this.

"Up until this stage she felt relatively protected by the law but now she doesn't. Ultimately she gave up her employment because of the effects of publication."

Judge Mill said it was only by a very narrow margin, because of Mr Bolton's good character and the fact he could not proceed on the basis that Mr Bolton knowingly or recklessly committed the offence, that he would grant the discharge without conviction.

That was conditional on Mr Bolton making a $1500 emotional harm payment to his victim within a month - though, the Judge acknowledged the woman might not want the money.

He said, in that case, she could donate it to charity if she chose.

Outside the court, Mr Bolton said his lawyer had advised him not to speak to the media.