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Wednesday, 21 February 2018 12:34 am

Law professor after justice for baby name choices

Victoria University law professor Dr Bevan Marten. PHOTO: Supplied.

A legal academic is promising to fight for parents’ right to call their kids ‘Justice’.

Dr Bevan Marten of Victoria University Law School says it is wrong to deny parents the right to name their children ‘Justice’, and is offering affected parents free legal representation.

“I’ve believed for a long time that people should be able to be called ‘Justice’,” Dr Marten says.

“I feel like it’s a concept that’s important in society and it’s not sufficiently confusing with the use of the term as a judicial rank to stop that from happening.

“It’s less confusing if you spell it differently,” he says.

“Most of the time the default is that parents are allowed to choose what they want to call their children. There’s only a light layer of supervision over the top from the state.”

Dr Marten says he has heard anecdotally of the name ‘Justice’ or variations of it, slipping through the net.

“If it’s not being enforced consistently across different families, then there’s even more reason not to prevent people from being called that name.”

Dr Marten says there are grounds to turn down a name where it is hurtful and would disadvantage a child who would have to bear that name for its whole life.

“There needs to be some sort of check on it. It’s just there’s such a long way between those situations and one where a kid gets called ‘Justice’ and maybe one day when they’re an adult could potentially confuse someone who thinks they’re a judge.

“It seems like a much longer bow to draw.”

Department of Internal Affairs spokesperson Steve Corbett says less than 1 percent of babies have their names considered by the registrar.

“We don’t think it’s a massive issue, but obviously if families feel that strong then they may have that option open to them.”

Corbett says the name ‘Justice’ often does not meet the criteria of not causing offence, being unreasonably long or inclusion of or resemblance to an official title or rank.

“There were round about half a dozen variations of that name that were declined last year.”

The list of rejected names for 2017 included the names Jahstice, Justice, Justus, Justyce, Justyce-Krimson.

The similar name ‘Judge’ was also rejected.

In a statement, Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages Jeff Montgomery says a name may be disallowed in one circumstance but allowed in another.

“Less than one percent of babies have their proposed name considered but the name of any baby born and registered in New Zealand must comply with New Zealand’s rules, regardless of the nationality of the parents,” Montgomery says.

Regardless, Dr Marten said he would be happy to take any parents’ appeal further, to establish a legal precedent.

However, he says he has not had any approaches yet.

“I’m hoping that someone hears about this story and can come forward.”

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