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Court scrap over naming Onepu officers

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 13/07/2016

Media organisations are fighting to name the police officers injured in the armed siege at Onepu near Kawerau in March, but a ruling on it won't be released until the end of next week.

Justice Timothy Brewer has reserved his decision until then following an application by Fairfax Media and NZME to have the present suppression order revoked.

He dealt with the matter in the High Court at Rotorua on Wednesday.

Orders made by a District Court judge are in force at least until Rhys Warren, 27, goes on trial on two charges of attempted murder and five of using a firearm against a law enforcement officer.

The two media outlets are protesting those orders.

The lawyer acting for both, Robert Stewart, argued that publishing the five officers' names would not harm their emotional well-being or recovery, saying there wasn't any expert evidence to substantiate this.

Undue hardship to any of the officers had not been established, he said.

He disputed their naming would deprive Warren of a fair trial. He submitted the officers' bravery in the line of duty should be publicly recognised and pointed out Police Association president Greg O'Connor was reported saying there were officers sitting at home wondering who had been hurt.

However, Crown prosecutor Anna Pollett countered that this had been said during the siege and the men's names would now be widely known by their colleagues.

She said if the officers involved had not returned to work they were anticipating doing so, meaning their safety could be compromised if their identities became public knowledge.

Their children could also be exposed to scrutiny if the suppression orders were lifted.

It followed that media attention would be detrimental, she submitted, claiming open justice could be served without the officers being named.

It is anticipated Warren's trial will be held in March.

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