The Sensible Sentencing Trust is on a mission to bring an end to permanent name suppression for prominent perpetrators unless the complainant or victim requests and/or agrees to it. And that fight spilled over into the ad world recently after a High Court decision to grant a 42-year-old Auckland advertising executive and father of two who was convicted and sentenced for possessing and exporting child rape imagery in June this year permanent name suppression. So should his name be released so that potential clients know? And what would that mean for the agency that employed him?
According to Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesperson Ruth Money, evidence placed before the Court assessed the man as having a medium risk of re-offending, so she says there are obvious public safety concerns around the potential for children to be in his presence without the parents of those children knowing about his conviction. But she says he "could also be working on inappropriate brands and products in his role as an advertising creative".
"Imagine if he is working with kids' brands and holding focus groups about nappies, kids' snacks, and toys etc," says Money, herself an ex-marketing agency owner. "This decision is an absolute travesty and we urge all ad agencies out there to publicly issue a statement that their agency does not and will not employ this ‘man’. We challenge all agencies and staff to post on the Stop the Suppression Facebook page that this is not you. A confirmation that 'it’s not me' will ensure your clients and consumers alike can have some assurance around the safety of your agency."
At this point, no agencies appear to have commented.
But it's not just about child-related brands. All brands need to be careful who they choose to work with in case it reflects poorly on them (as an example, Michael Phelps could lose a few of his sponsorship deals after his second DUI). And even if a conviction like this is not relevant to the job, it's fair to assume no client would want them working on their business—and no agency would want someone like this in their office.
While it's common for employees to get the boot for dodgy dealings that relate to their job (for example, Heart of the City's Alex Swney has been stood down after tax evasion charges that he denies were brought against him), it's less common to get the boot if they're convicted for something extraneous to their job—unless you're a politician. A recent example of this in the business world was Guy Hallwright being convicted for grievous bodily harm and then failing to win back his job at Forsyth Barr, which claimed that his conviction affected the company's reputation. Releasing this man's name is potentially damaging to his employers. And while it's not clear whether the man is still employed, given he was sentenced to ten months' home detention, it's unlikely.
At the time of sentencing Judge Eddie Paul said “The public are entitled to know what this man has been doing on a computer, on the internet, in his home." He called the images "gross and extreme". And he said "prohibiting publication, in my view, would do a major disservice to the children this man abused by viewing their images". He lifted a temporary name suppression order, but the man's lawyer appealed and permanent name suppression was granted by Justice Thomas at the Auckland High Court because the man's wife suffered from a heart condition.
Money says the wife, who doesn’t have the same surname as the offender, has chosen to stay with "this so-called man and therefore should take responsibility for her own stress levels".
"Her heart survived the stress of a dawn raid on their Westmere home last year, as well as learning all the grotesque details of her husband’s sexual interest in very young girls. We remain seriously concerned that by supporting his name suppression application she is risking her own children’s safety and that of the wider community."
Money says the Sensible Sentencing Trust is currently investigating appeal options.
"There has to be something more we can do to protect the public."
According to the Herald, the man was caught out by an Australian police undercover sting after he sent an officer using a pseudonym two exploitative images of children.
Last year searches of the man's house uncovered 23 more images. He promptly pleaded guilty to two charges each of exporting and possessing objectionable material and has sought counselling.
In a statement after the sentencing, Customs border operations manager Shane Panettiere said it was "ironic" the man wanted to remain anonymous to protect his privacy "when privacy was one thing child sexual abuse victims never have from the moment their images begin to circulate on the internet".
"Most people don't understand the seriousness of online child sexual exploitation. It is not harmless. Children suffer horrific sexual violation and this is photographed or filmed for the sexual enjoyment of others. These children are re-victimised every time these images are viewed," he said.
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