February 26, 2009

Suppression continues for woman who admits under-age sex

A 36-year-old mother who had sex with an under-age boy has been allowed to keep her interim name suppression for the sake of her own two daughters.

The girls are aged 10 and 15 and were described as vulnerable during the suppression appeal before Justice Christine French in the High Court at Christchurch today.

When the woman pleaded guilty on January 16, District Court Judge Stephen Erber refused suppression but allowed the interim order to continue until the appeal could be heard.

Justice French said the judge was likely to have reached a different conclusion about suppression if he had been given the additional material that was now available to the High Court.

The woman admitted the charge of having sexual connection with a boy aged 15 about September 6. The two had been at a Linwood address on an evening when they had alcohol and party pills, and then had sex.

The woman said the boy had helped himself to the pills and had initiated the sex. She admitted having sex with the boy when the police spoke to her, and said it was “the biggest mistake of my life”.

The woman is due to be sentenced in the District Court next Friday and defence counsel Gilly Ferguson said today she would be seeking permanent suppression at that hearing if an interim order were granted today.

Submissions from counsel, and medical and psychiatric reports were put before the judge.

Mrs Ferguson said the woman’s daughters had been distressed when the mother had discussed the case with them recently and she had mentioned the possibility of her name being published.

The reports mentioned the possibility of the girls facing ridicule, bullying, criticism by peers, and the desire of parents for their children to discontinue their association.

“We are dealing with one isolated moment in the life of a mother who slipped from the decent standards she had previously observed,” she said.

Prosecutor Shannon-Leigh Litt said the crown had sympathy for the two children who would be particularly vulnerable if the name was published.

Justice French said the fact that a woman had been charged with under-age sex was unusual and was likely to attract significant notoriety.

But she said it was an isolated incident and there appeared to be no need for publicity to “flush out” further offending.

“I am satisfied this is a rare case where the need to protect the appellant’s daughters displaces the public interest in revealing the appellant’s name,” she said.

The order remains interim, and a decision on permanent suppression will need to be made by the sentencing judge in the District Court on Friday.