The Family Court often deals with very sensitive and deeply personal matters; frequently involving children and other vulnerable participants. As a result, specific reporting restrictions apply to most Family Court proceedings; this is different from the position in other Courts where, in most cases, the principle of open justice generally applies.
In a recent case which made the news, a disgruntled Hamilton woman found this out to her detriment when she published extensive details about Family Court proceedings that she was involved in within a series of posts on her YouTube account.
New Zealand law prevents a person, without the permission of the Court, from publishing a “report” of proceedings in the Family Court that contains identifying information about a person under the age of 18, or who is otherwise considered to be a “vulnerable person”.
A “report” can include anything from a written publication, an email, a website, Facebook or Twitter post, or any other form of social media post.
“Identifying information” means information relating to proceedings that include any name or particulars likely to lead to the identification of the parties, people who are the subject of the proceedings (e.g. children) or associated with the proceedings.
The definition of “vulnerable person” includes a wide range of people:
Every person who is found to have contravened this law commits a criminal offence and can be fined up to $2,000.00 or, be imprisoned for up to 3 months. It is also important to note that a body corporate who breaches this section can be fined up to $10,000.00.
The Hamilton YouTuber, referred to above, was sentenced to four months of community detention with nine months of supervision, together with the express warning that she would face imprisonment if any further breach occurred.
Modern technology has dramatically expanded the ways and ease with which we can publish and consume information. However, the lesson is clear. No matter how unfair you think the outcome may be, the safest approach is to never post or otherwise publish details about Family Court proceedings. If you are unsure, seek expert legal advice.
For More Information:
If you have any questions about these issues, please feel free to contact our expert family lawyers:
Debbie Dunbar | 04 495 9940 | Debbie.firstname.lastname@example.org
David Abricossow | 04 886 2641 | David.email@example.com
Maretta Twentyman | 04 495 8918 | Maretta.firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Chapman | 04 495 8905 | Anna.email@example.com
Racheal Allison | 04 495 9949 | Racheal.firstname.lastname@example.org