Name suppression lapses for Jemma Taylor, PR manager accused of child sex abuse

Name suppression has lapsed for a woman accused of performing indecent acts on a child under 12 a decade ago. Photo / NZME

An Auckland woman who has held senior communications roles with St Cuthbert’s College and the New Zealand Film Commission can now be identified as the defendant in an historic child sex abuse case.

Name suppression lapsed today for Jemma Taylor, five months after the 37-year-old was first called to appear at Auckland District Court concerning three allegations she did indecent acts on a girl who was under 12 years old in 2012.

She did not work for the all-girls boarding school at the time of the alleged offending.

“The charges follow an investigation into alleged historical offending, which was reported to police last year,” a police spokesperson told the Herald in March, declining further comment because the matter is before the courts.

Taylor has pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.

Defense lawyer Marie Dyhrberg QC had asked for name suppression for her client and for St Cuthbert’s College, where Taylor was working when the decade-old allegations came to light, to remain in place until the conclusion of her trial. The request was denied by Auckland District Court Judge Evangelos Thomas following a hearing in June.

Taylor then appealed against that decision to Justice Graham Lang in the High Court at Auckland. In a reserved judgment released this week, it dismissed the appeal.

A lawyer for St Cuthbert’s College had asked that the school not have name suppression so that the school community could be informed about the situation, including the fact that Taylor no longer works there.

Taylor had previously listed her position at St Cuthbert’s College as senior marketing communications manager. Prior to that, according to her CV, she was an international public relations manager for the New Zealand Film Commission, a media advisor for Tourism New Zealand and held an assignments desk and junior reporter role in TVNZ’s newsroom.

Among Taylor’s arguments was that publication of her name would cause extreme hardship, preventing her from obtaining communications jobs in the future even if she is acquitted.

Justice Lang disagreed, noting that she has voluntarily put her communications career on hold pending the outcome of her case. If convicted, her communications skills could still be put to use in a role that doesn’t involve interactions with children, the judge said.

“If Ms Taylor is acquitted, her position will obviously be different,” Justice Lang added. “She will be able to rely upon the jury’s verdicts as exoneration of guilt on the charges the Crown has brought.

“… She may nevertheless encounter some residual prejudice but I consider this is likely to be manageable. The Court is entitled to proceed on the basis that most prospective employers are likely to focus on Ms Taylor’s experience and skill set. They should be presumed to have the ability to accept a jury’s verdicts at face value.”

Taylor’s trial is set for next year.


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