Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cameron Slater versus Name Suppression

Blogger Cameron Slater was before the courts today defending his stance on releasing suppressed named via his WhaleOil website. Slater said amongst other things that blogs are exempt of name suppression laws because they are “the new village green” an extension on a conversation rather than a media report or release. You cannot be held in contempt if you are having a private conversation.

The crown argued that in releasing the names, Slater actually made it more difficult for the victims of crime to come forward as once some of these alleged offenders names were released, then by association so were the victims. Slater argued that with everything in the public domain the way the courts would run would be improved.

It also appears that Cameron Slater often claims that name suppression is the bastion of the rich and famous, so let’s test that.

As reported on, according to the Ministry of Justice in 2008, of the 150,000 criminal cases each year, 765 ended with permanent name suppression. There are also approximately 2,400 interim name suppressions but they are “less significant since the media can eventually report them.”

So around 3,000 full or interim name suppression each year…and Slater is being charged with 9 offences. That would make me believe that over the last year, Cameron Slater has been so unhappy with 9 instances of name suppression…out of 3,000…that he needed to break a court order and release their names. Even if every one of those releases were sportsmen, politicians or the rich…it’s only around three tenths of one percent of all names suppressions over the last 12 months.

One area I am inclined to agree with Slater on is the suppression of names after a guilty conviction. I hope there is a very difficult filter to get through which allows a convicted criminal to keep their name out of the media…but as for releasing names after a charge has been laid, or during a trial only an idiot would think that is going to help the justice system.

What should we do then?

We I think it’s very simple, to get away from the hypothetical problem with some people getting name suppression and other not…just give every accused person name suppression.

My premise is that every person who is accused of a crime has name suppression until a conviction; then their name is released. There are too many cases of people being found ‘not guilty’ in the eyes of the law, but ‘guilty’ in the court of public opinion.

Media outlets constantly sight ‘the public’s need to know’, what a crock! What we need to know is the dangerous criminal in our society. What we need to know is the offenders being locked away. What we don’t need to know is the tabloid style news we are getting at the moment, with back hand/sly accusations coming from many sources painting a person ‘guilty’ then having them to prove their innocence. That’s not how our justice system has been set up, that’s not how it works and that’s not the system most of us would want if it were we that was accused with a crime.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The ‘h’ debate

I see that Mayor Michael Laws is trying to re-ignite the debate over the ‘h’ in Whanganui. As reported on he is going to ‘complain to the Press Council and Broadcasting Standards Authority over media using the name Whanganui.’ He has gone so far as to say that media bodies that using the name Whanganui are acting illegally. I guess that makes me a criminal.

The "h" conversation feels finished to me. As far as I'm concerned the decision is made and Mayor Laws got some consolation in the end. Through his tireless efforts and the voice of a sector of his community, the Geographic Board agreed to make both Whanganui and Wanganui official. I've looked at other decisions made by the Board and this is not usually the case, therefore it is a ‘win’ for Michael Laws.

Why is Michael Laws bringing this up again? Is it to divert attention from the embarrassing headlines of last week regarding his interactions with an ex-prostitute and ‘P’ user? Is it that it is currently the time of year when commercial radio stations round the country are fighting for ratings and Mr. Laws needs desperately for his ratings to rise? Or does he genuinely believe the rhetoric he is spouting?

Michael Laws says that over the past 160 years or so, Wanganui has developed its own culture, and he’s right, and that’s why the Geographic Board allowed that spelling of the beautiful town to remain without the ‘h’. Again this appears to be a win for Mr. Laws.

Michael Laws often uses the argument that even the local iwi don’t pronounce the Whas an ‘f’ sound. Again, Mr. Laws is right…but it is a weak argument. What he is saying is that even if people are stupid enough (my paraphrase) to want to include the ‘h’, they should then at least pronounce it as the local iwi do, with the Whsounding more like the start of ‘whistle’.

I've developed my own theory on this, I call it the 'dominant dialect theory'. I think that the most common pronunciation of a word makes that pronunciation acceptable, even if it differs from local dialect. Amongst Maori speakers most pronounce Wh as an ‘f’ therefore it is entirely acceptable to pronounce Whanganui with the ‘f’ sound. If we followed Michael Laws’ argument of how the local dialect is the only acceptable alternate version, we would all need to roll our ‘r’ when pronouncing Gore because that is how the locals say it. It just doesn't work.

Finally the concept that Mayor Laws uses repetitively which is that the majority want it without the ‘h’ therefore it’s undemocratic to put in the ‘h’ is rubbish. Laws is not talking about democracy, he is talking about mob rule. Sometimes the ‘majority’ shouldn’t get what they want…sometimes there are good reasons why the majority should bow to official decisions. If you asked students to vote whether they should pay fees or not, I’ll bet the majority would say ‘No!’, but if we followed that mob rule our national debt would go further through the roof to pay for University fees.

Laws is pitching this to the lowest common denominator, those who are scared of the taniwha under the bed, and he is looking for people to buy his over-simplified , thin at best, divisive attitude towards an issue where he has already had a win…it’s just not the ‘win’ he wanted.

Whanganui, Wanganui, Whatever…isn’t it time to let this old, old warhorse know that those of us that want to call it Wanganui can….that those of us that want to call it Whanganui with an ‘f’ can…and that those of us that want to call it Whanganui with a whcan…where’s the problem with that?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!

Weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker in trouble again over on-air gesture
The BBC and the Met Office have been forced to apologise after weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker was caught live on air making an obscene gesture at a newsreader.

A BBC spokesman said that the corporation had received seven complaints. “Tomasz was not aware that he was on air, and whilst the gesture was only shown for a second, it was not acceptable,” she said. “The News Channel presenter live in the studio acknowledged a mistake had been made, and we apologise for any offence caused.”

While it is understood that Schafernaker does not face losing his job over the incident, his employers the Met Office apologised on his behalf. “Tomasz was not aware that he was on air at the time. However, his actions were not acceptable and we apologise for any offence caused,” said a spokesman.

Schafernaker, who was born in Gdansk but came to the UK as a child, is no stranger to controversy, having had to apologise previously for referring to the Western Isles as “Nowheresville” during a weather forecast.

He has also stumbled over his words and referred to Glastonbury as a “muddy shite” rather than a “muddy site”, and called Devon “Devil”.

In May 2008, he was seen on air tearing out his earpiece and saying “Well I don’t know if I’m on air on not so Gary over to you.”

Earlier this year Schafernaker raised eyebrows among BBC executives by showing off his impressive physique, shirtless, on the cover of the gay magazine Attitude Active.