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Free Speech Union against name suppression for alleged Wanaka escapees

  • September 13th, 2021

Today the Free Speech Union issued a media statement over my name, opposing name suppression for the Auckland couple charged with a cunning escape from level 4 lockdown, to Wanaka via Hamilton.

Stuff had reported their QC as saying she was preparing to apply for name suppression.

I was happy to comment. In my opinion name suppression and the common secrecy of our courts are a blight on justice and an affront to freedom of speech.

The courts should not have power to grant name suppression.

Here is the provision they apply (grounds in bold) from the Criminal Procedure Act 2011:

200 Court may suppress identity of defendant

(1) A court may make an order forbidding publication of the name, address, or occupation of a person who is charged with, or convicted or acquitted of, an offence.

(2) The court may make an order under subsection (1) only if the court is satisfied that publication would be likely to—

(a) cause extreme hardship to the person charged with, or convicted of, or acquitted of the offence, or any person connected with that person; or
(b) cast suspicion on another person that may cause undue hardship to that person; or
(c) cause undue hardship to any victim of the offence; or
(d) create a real risk of prejudice to a fair trial; or
(e) endanger the safety of any person; or
(f) lead to the identification of another person whose name is suppressed by order or by law; or
(g) prejudice the maintenance of the law, including the prevention, investigation, and detection of offences; or
(h) prejudice the security or defence of New Zealand.

(3) The fact that a defendant is well known does not, of itself, mean that publication of his or her name will result in extreme hardship for the purposes of subsection (2)(a).

(4) Despite subsection (2), when a person who is charged with an offence first appears before the court the court may make an interim order under subsection (1) if that person advances an arguable case that one of the grounds in subsection (2) applies.

(5) An interim order made in accordance with subsection (4) expires at the person’s next court appearance, and may only be renewed if the court is satisfied that one of the grounds in subsection (2) applies.

(6) When determining whether to make an order or further order under subsection (1) that is to have effect permanently, a court must take into account any views of a victim of the offence conveyed in accordance with section 28 of the Victims’ Rights Act 2002.

The claimed reasons for name suppression are often trumped up. In this case there are five good reasons to ignore sob stories:

  1. Shame – the fear that your hypocrisy or lying will be uncovered should be the primary deterrent for what is really a “social” crime . Breaching restrictions on movement that may spread disease is an offence against our shared endeavour.
  2. Shame should be the first and main punishment for “social” crime. We are all the victims of this kind of cheating. Shame means we can impose the punishment directly.
  3. Ending name suppression would reduce the waste of Police and court time. The community could punish naturally if Stuff was free to publish what it knew.
  4. Having heard lawyers and judges justifying name suppression, I believe that insider arrogance, love of having ‘secret knowledge’ lies behind much name suppression.
  5. In this case name suppression will be an own goal. The Streisand effect will operate eventually even if the defendants are tempted to think they can hide their shame behind a court order, and even if the QC gets them a discharge based on some technicality.

Our community cohesion, our collective effectiveness against contagion, depend on feeling the restrictions are fair. Name suppression creates suspicion that the rules don’t mean what they say, that the elite don’t believe they are truly important. Name suppression shows what the elite really think, that embarrassment for them is more weighty than  the cost of lockdown, and the health risks of covid spreading.

We need to see fair rules applied evenly.

Finally, freedom of speech is our freedom to know things our masters would rather keep secret. Everyone close to the couple will by now know who they are. We the public should know. Freedom of speech is our right to know, not just Stuff’s right to tell us. Free speech protects us from powerful insiders. We need to know to be confident that we are indeed equal before the law. That applies just as much before a trial as after. If they are acquitted because a charge has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt, we should still be free to make up our own minds about the morality of their conduct, even if the state rightly cannot impose a punishment.

And if they are guilty but sorry, to show they have learned a lesson, true remorse or contrition would have them reject name suppression. People charged who hide behind an application that is a byword for dodgy privilege should not expect us to respect them.

Comments

Gravatar
  • Tom Raleigh
  • September 14th, 2021
  • 11:54 am

Nobody should expect to get protection from the law when it suits them. Like Prince Andrew trying to hide behind the palace gates. It doesn’t matter if your mummy is the Queen or a high court Judge. Face the music.

Gravatar
  • James Parlane
  • September 16th, 2021
  • 8:40 pm

Good one Tom. On the Karaka couple, while a lot of people had Hurt feelings, nobody was actually hurt. there are wider more serious issues. The far more serious crime here is the crime against humanity committed by the government who were in control of the boarder and while knowing how serious this disease is they let it in. They compromised the health and economy of NZ by letting Travelers in with Covid and are still letting 3 or 4 more in each day. They shirk while Auckland works or suffers. The real criminals are ministers who do not follow their own rules. Ministers shifting house, travelling overseas etc. Initially this couple were given an indulgence by the judge ordering name suppression when there was no charge before the court on an “arguable” tenet. The law here says nothing about arguments the law is supposed to be certain. I may have missed something but it is silent on the issue of third parties such as parents occupation. Here we saw a judge, Davidson? giving his sister judge an immunity based on a phone conference. The couple are entitled to the same warnings and diversions as everybody else if there is no previous. A big donation to charity, say 10 times the value of the holiday would be fair wouldn’t it?

Gravatar
  • James Parlane
  • September 19th, 2021
  • 8:26 pm

Today we learn that a prisoner was sent to jail and was put in a cell with another who he infected with c.19.What is the punishment for a government who does that? They burst his bubble. They are supposed to humanely confine him. Is it a crime against humanity for a government who shamelessly has control of the boarder and fails to keep out the delta variant then they let travelers in with the disease then they shamelessly and intentionally take away the basic freedoms and rights of all NZ’ers and in particular 1,3 million Aucklanders for 6 weeks by way of a lock up or down. Should the International Court of Justice now be involved?

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