Is Shelley Bridgeman the best columnist ever?

Cactus Kate has already waxed lyrical about Shelley Bridgeman. I was ho hum about her, thinking that she was trying to be the next Mrs Carruthers QC. However it seems she actually has a brain and isn’t afraid to use it. Today she explains the folly of court suppression orders in a modern age.

When are people going to realise that name suppression only excites the public appetite for information that, had it been reported in the usual fashion, would barely have interested us?

Exactly, something Ryan Giggs forgot about or the fools fighting over some bloody dogs.

Had Sandra Grant, a hitherto unknown lawyer, not been granted interim name suppression I bet she wouldn’t have warranted the colour photograph on page four of the?NZ Herald that appeared once suppression lapsed. Her drink-drive conviction had become almost secondary to the main story which was the name suppression itself. We were affronted that someone with an inner knowledge of the machinations of the legal system should try to seek anonymity; the implication was that she was being afforded privileges that may not be so readily accessible to the rest of us. Had name suppression not been a factor, Grant would at most have warranted a passing mention in the newspaper. And I certainly wouldn’t be writing about her today.

The worst offenders of those seeking name suppression are celebrities and what I call establishment…lawyers, accountants and business people.

Broadcaster Martin Devlin similarly created an unnecessary amount of interest when he sought name suppression following a fit of disorderly conduct in Quay Street one morning. Had this been reported in the routine way most of us would have dismissed it as barely interesting.

But coming as it did after much speculation, our curiosity was piqued. Who was this celebrity and what exactly had he done? Chat at water-coolers and on message boards was rife with hints as to his identity and, of course, once his name was made public talk then turned to whether the guy was indeed a celebrity. To make matters worse, it was a strategy that seemed at odds with his persona. Devlin makes his living from the media and from having an upfront, opinionated demeanour. To suddenly become shy and retiring seemed disingenuous.

What is worse about Martin Devlin is his overly protective wife Andi Brotherston who clearly has google searches on her waste of space husband because she places calls to anyone who dares to malign his sorry arse and threatens them with defamation. She has busily been trying hose down the Jetstar story about his foolish ranting and getting himself tossed from the plane. The funny thing is she always says she is calling from TVNZ….without disclosing that it is actually a personal situation and that she is his wife.

It’s not just name suppression that can have the opposite effect to that intended. Any attempt to censor ideas or information, to keep the public in the dark, often leads to wider publicity and a greater audience than would otherwise have been the case.

This is called the Streisand Effect. It is well known and spectacular when it goes off.

Bottom line is that Simon Power’s silly re-write of the law won’t work. If the US Government can’t keep its most precious military and diplomatic communciations secret and Twitter and Facebook can bring down dictators like Hosni Mubarak and muammar Gadaffi then what hope do our politicians have in stopping people telling the truth about other people.

It is only a matter of time until there is an anonymous Twitter account broadcasting details of people before the courts with name suppression.