Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why name suppression cannot work

With the current brouhaha over name suppression I thought I'd set out a logical response why name suppression in Aotearoa cannot work.

Offender allegedly commits offence

Victim knows name. Victim's family knows name. Possible also that some of victim's friends are told who it is.

Police investigate

Numerous police officers know the name. Non sworn police staff will know as reports are typed etc. Possible that police officers wives and some friends are told of allegations.

Police charge offender

More police officers know. Possible offenders work or business associates know. Police information sheet (the charge sheet) gives name and is seen by many people in both the police system and court system.

Offender appears in court

Numerous court staff know name. Judge knows name. Registrar knows name. People in court know, including other lawyers, security staff and perhaps media know name.

Offender is bailed

Bail bond prepared - more court staff know.

Offender is remanded in custody

Prison population will eventually know. Do you trust them to keep it quiet?

Offender goes to trial

If media didn't know name, they will at the trial. Court observers, if they didn't know beforehand, will now know.

These are just the obvious strands. Then you have to realise chinese whispers occur, you have to consider the six degrees of separation principle, and then you have to realise New Zealand is a small, very small place.

The final, and most powerful reason, is the internet.

Let's face it, when one considers all this, name suppression simply cannot work in New Zealand. It's absurd to pretend it can.

UPDATE: In light of the comment about my first heading I have amended it. That is a fair point.

Further, my wife read this and asked why all these people who know the name and tell someone aren't liable for breaching the order. They're not because under sections 139 & 140 of the Criminal Justice Act the prohibition is against "...publishing, in any report or account relating to any proceedings commenced in any court...". My view is that this is written for the media and telling someone the name would not be it "publishing, in any report or account...".


Barnsley Bill said...

Many years ago I worked at the Waikato Times during the Plumley Walker case. Within 24 hours of secret witness B giving testimony every single staff member knew who he was, all their friends and family would have known by dinner time and all their friends, family and workmates would have known within 24 hours of that. All this came from the court reporter talking to a fellow court reporter from a competing paper on the phone.

A cop has been charged with waving his willy at a mum and son today. I made one call to Auckland and had his name within 20 minutes.

We knew who the comedian was within 20 minutes of seeing the story in the MSM.
The only reason he has not been outed is the age of the alleged victim and the sickening severity of the allegation. If he is found guilty I doubt he will see more than a few weeks of jail time.

Anonymous said...

Whoops - John 'smiley' Key don't agree with ya:

"They [bloggers] can't take the law into their own hands and that applies equally to Cameron Slater as it does to every other New Zealander. [John Key; Stuff]"

Name suppression works at a population level, not an individual level (which is why courts don't consider name suppression with cleared courtroom). That is, it doesn't matter if a few people in court know, it is important that the wider populace don't know, so the alleged victim and/or offender don't suffer in the community.

Examples - teacher accused of abusing student. Even if found not guilty, teacher would struggle to get hired if everyone knew the alleged crime.

Related child abused - if offenders name is know, childs name is know, and other children can and will tease them. Iamgine the comedian's kid - never able to show affection to her dad again without other kids sniggering. Kids can be irrationally cruel.

Drop the endless defending of Slater, and get him help, or cut his internet, or both.

Psycho Milt said...

I had no idea who any of these people were until fuckwits started breaching the suppression order by publishing names or details. That's all suppression orders are there for - to try and do something at least to stop fuckwits turning people's court cases into entertainment. Or in Cameron Slater's case, self-aggrandisement.

Yes, it's a lost cause but I'd rather see them do something than nothing.

Anonymous said...

Your very first point 'Offender commits offence' says it all. You have assumed the person has committed the offence and is guilty, why bother with a trial? I hope for your sake you're never on the receiving end of a false accusation coupled with the righteousness of a Cameron Slater. The false accuser of course is protected by anonymity, perhaps that is where the attention should be focused.

dad4justice said...

False allegations of sexual abuse can destroy a decent fathers life. When the lie is finally exposed he is dumbstruck to find out he can't use the law to redress the issue.

Keeping Stock said...

Excellent post Gooner - there is, as you note, too much of a human element within the system for name supression to be effective.

Murray said...

Got as far as "Aotearoa", nothing to do with me because I live in a country called New Zealand.

The Veteran said...

Right on Murray.

Keeping Stock said...

Gonner's just showing that he's a Sensitive New-Age Guy

Falafulu Fisi said...

How about if a church minister (Bishop Tamaki, etc,...) reveals a suppressed name during a sermon?