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 www.medialawjournal.co.nz, 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.