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Alleged Wānaka lockdown breakers secure rare pre-charge name suppression

The couple who escaped from Auckland’s lockdown, and travelled to their holiday home in Wānaka have, in a rare occurrence, secured name suppression before being charged.

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The Prime Minister didn’t want to comment further, saying it was now in the hands of police. Source: 1 NEWS

It’s alleged the man, 35, and his 26-year-old partner breached Covid-19 travel restrictions by using essential worker status to drive from Auckland to Hamilton and then fly south to Otago.

In an urgent teleconference hearing last night the pair’s lawyer, Rachael Reed QC, argued the order should be made as, “although the mainstream media might be expected to act responsibly and await a prospective defendant’s first appearance in court rather than publish and act contemptuously, not so bloggers, social media advocates and citizen journalists”.

The court was given examples of social media posts that have named and shamed the couple.

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Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult says the couple put people at risk. Source: 1 NEWS

Online blogs also contain details about the man’s parent, who is a high-ranking legal professional.

The couple will now have a court date for the alleged breach of a Covid-19 order, but charges are yet to be officially laid.

Judge Bruce Davidson, who held the urgent teleconference at 6:30pm yesterday, said he initially believed he “would have no power to make such orders”, for pre-charge suppression.

In his decision Davidson said the issue is one of jurisdiction, not merit.

“It must be at least arguable that the District Court does have jurisdiction under its incidental and implied powers, to make such orders.”

“Relevant factors would be the imminence or otherwise of charges; any delay in first appearance (e.g. here the constraining Alert Level requirements in Auckland); the Judge’s sense or gauge of any adverse media, especially social media, reaction.”

A file image of a set of scales in a courtroom. Source: 1 NEWS

He said he’s made the order to allow the prospective defendants and a connected person, the parent, to apply to the High Court for non-publication orders on a pre-charge basis.

His order will expire and the couple will be able to be named at 7pm today, unless another order is made.

There has been widespread fury at the couple's alleged actions, with Queenstown Lake Mayor Jim Boult saying they were putting the health of other people at risk.

"People will always find a way to break the rules I guess, I'm disappointed it happened in our community, and I'm disappointed it's our folk on the receiving end of it. I hope there's some work Government can do to tighten up the system."