I have covered courts in England, Scotland and New Zealand and I
am amazed at the name suppression orders given out to protect the
The courts argue that such well-known individuals would suffer
extra punishment for being well known. Lawyers for the certain
30-something musician argued last week that if people knew it was
he that misbehaved with a young girl in a Wellington street, they
might not buy his records anymore.
Were they taking the P? Or, were they on the money with these
comments? But as several bloggers discussed after the verdict, is such
name suppression pointless in an online era? David Farrar at Kiwiblog asked his readers not
to say who the musician was, but to post if they did know and which city they live in. His experiment showed many did know, and a few commentors
posted the odd hint to educate the rest.
Indeed, with such details given in newspaper coverage, like the
date of the offence and that it happened after the Auckland-based
singer performed in Wellington, it was easy to work out who he was,
especially when even the TV coverage with his features blurred
showed he was such a shortie!
Thus, chat rooms, blogs, social media sites, etc, discussed the
matter, with comments also appearing on the website of a
certain 30-something musician from Auckland, though it seems they
have been removed.
However, other 30-something musicians might feel smeared. Such
suppression orders might cast doubt on the character of others with
similar descriptions. Surely naming and shaming is part of the
punishment, and as public figures, they might be expected to set an
example and behave themselves.
Of course, there may well be cases for suppression orders to be
made, say releasing details that might prejudice a case as we see
here. Or even here.
Well, what fortuitous timing for Internet New Zealand, the Law
Commission and the Ministry of Justice to announce a seminar on suppression orders, contempt of court and
the internet for 3 December.
With so many of us blogging, using Facebook, Twitter and the
like, we have become publishers too, so this is something that
might interest and affect us all!
InternetNZ spokesperson Jordan Carter says the legal issues
caused by internet publishing are well known and significant. They
include the undermining (deliberately or otherwise) of suppression
orders, the lack of jurisdiction over internet material hosted
outside New Zealand, and public discussion of crimes and trials
potentially being a contempt of court.
He added later:
"The seminar should prove a useful input into the
review of the law of contempt currently being undertaken by the Law
Commission, consideration of the desirability of initiatives such
as a central register of suppression orders, and also any wider
review of contempt law that the government undertakes."
Now, back to our 30-something musician. Perhaps he should have
outed himself and taken the rap. We still know who he is, but now we also see him as a short
yellow-belly for hiding behind such legal niceties!