Another Editorial on Suppression

The Press has a balanced Editorial on the issue of Name Suppression.

The application by judges of the law regarding suppression of the identities of people appearing before the courts accused of crimes has been erratic and haphazard for some time. Some judges, at least, have taken to granting suppression almost routinely, particularly in cases likely to attract a lot of publicity and particularly in the early stages of procedure through the courts when public interest is likely to be greatest.

In such cases it is often granted with little or no justification for it and no reasons given by the court. The aim appears to be little more than to exert some sort of control over news coverage. This is not a proper exercise of the court’s power and is reason enough for the Government to hasten its promise to look at amending the law following recommendations to do so made late last year by the Law Commission.

Precisely the points I have been making. Largely the Judges simply put a lazy blanket suppression in place and then wander off to the golf course. I say again and will keep on saying this does not and will not protect the victims. Only a thoughtful and considered suppression order like that which the Judge used in the Graham Capill case, where he suppressed the nature of the relationship between the offender and the victim, will ever protect victims. The media can easily circumvent the blanket and inadequate suppression orders. Unfortunately thought the Law Commission document recommending changes has been written by vested interests in maintaining suppression and doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Not many years ago, suppression at any stage of a court proceeding was a rarity. The courts quite rightly followed the principle that they should operate in public and that their activities should be able to be freely reported upon. Even now, suppression, particularly final suppression after a case is completed, is still uncommon.

But although the law has not changed, suppression has undoubtedly increased. Defendants during the early stages of their cases can often get it merely by asking for it or presenting only the flimsiest of pretexts for it.

It occurs often in high-profile cases or those involving a well-known defendant. This is unsatisfactory.

They are not wrong there. indeed there is a case right now before the courts where a woman with a gambling habit is accused of nicking $500,000 from her company. There is a suppression in place, not to protect the woman’s identity rather to protect the idiot company that didn’t have sufficient controls in place to detect the siphoning off of half a million. It is irrelevant that the woman is a gambling addict, that is simply and excuse. The plain and simple fact is that she is a thief. So now we have the situation where a simple thief can have name suppression in order to protect a company!

It is sometimes said that the aim is to protect the presumption of innocence, but that does not make much sense. The rules governing what may be said about a trial are strict. The media can be severely punished for publishing anything that might prejudge the outcome of a trial before it is held, and the presumption of innocence ? a rule of legal procedure that puts the onus on the prosecutor of proving the case against an accused ? is not affected one way or the other by media reports about a case.

Yes this argument is specious and should be rightly ignored.

A clearer, more consistent line about suppression is clearly called for. Reforms along the lines suggested by the Law Commission may help. Although largely a restatement of what is theoretically the law now, they would still make suppression a matter of judicial discretion but would statute explicit requirements for the granting of it.

Exactly, it is simply a re-write dressed up as changes. I have little doubt though that the ever wonderful Simon “FIGJAM” Power will wave this document like Neville Chamberlain to declare peace in our time over name suppression. unfortunately I and a few others are not going to let that happen.

One area that would be untouched would be suppression that occurs to protect victims. The law at present automatically suppresses the identities of victims of certain sex crimes. Where these crimes have been committed against a relative or someone closely connected to the accused, it means the name of the accused must be suppressed also. This is entirely right and proper. It avoids aggravating the effects of the crime on the victim.

I disagree, but only on the grounds that I and the media have proven through our actions, that the law is inadequate in protecting the victims. The only real solution is to toughen and widen the things that can be suppressed including the nature of the relationship between the offender and the victim. You often hear rape and child abuse experts explain that rape and child abuse is more often committed by someone the victim knows than not. What better way of ensuring the media don’t pursue the lurid details in a round about fashion than suppressing the nature of the relationship.

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