27 Aug 2015

Teenage killer seeks to keep identity hidden

2:52 pm on 27 August 2015

The teenager found guilty of the manslaughter of an Auckland dairy owner during a robbery has gone to the Court of Appeal in a bid to keep his identity hidden.

Arun Kumar.

Arun Kumar. Photo: SUPPLIED

"P" was 14 when he was jailed for 6 years for killing Arun Kumar while robbing his shop in June 2014.

At sentencing the trial judge was prepared to ban photographs of him, but not to suppress his name.

His lawyer, Maria Pecotic told the Court the trial judge - Justice Lang - suppressed her client's image because he found publication of it would result in extreme hardship for the youth.

However she said he should have suppressed the boy's name as well, because both image and name form a person's identity.

Ms Pecotic drew parallels between her client and New Zealand's youngest convicted killer, Bailey Kurariki, saying the latter's name would never have been published if the Courts had realised the ongoing publicity it would attract and the effect it would have on him.

She said her client is totally different from an adult offender who might make reparation and be granted suppression so they can continue the good work they've done in the community.

The lawyer said "P" was a child who was yet to develop and grow and if his name was published it would stigmatise him and put a halt to any future positive pathway for him.

She said the teen had suffered a traumatic brain injury and had been raised in an environment of neglect not of his making, and the state had failed to act on that and left him there.

However she said he's done exceptionally well since receiving proper treatment in care and had told her he felt like he had won a gold medal in overcoming his drug addiction.

She said New Zealand's obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child should also be considered by the Appeal Court Judges.

However the Crown lawyer, Annabel Markham, said stringent conditions had to be met before name suppression was granted.

She said undue hardship was not enough as the legal test mentioned extreme hardship.

Ms Markham said the impact of publication on a person's future rehabilitation had to be considered, but there was a balance to be struck because if name suppression was granted on a wider basis it could have a chilling effect on open justice.

Tania Goatley, who represented media interests at the hearing, said while the offender's age was a matter to be taken into account, Mr Kumar's family were strongly opposed to name suppression.

She said there was no name suppression for victims and it was not for the media to establish why it is in the public interest for the offender's name to be published, rather it is for the defendant to show why it is not.

The Court reserved its decision, saying the issue was very important and had to be considered very carefully.

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