Suppression? Not on the offenders’ terms

The name suppression discussions raging around the internet and mainstream media on the back of Whale Oil’s campaign to single-handedly bring justice to the justice sector have pulled in comments from all directions.

Cheerleading from DomPo editorials and Michael Laws:

Blogger Slater is challenging such legal shibboleths and all power to him. His tilt, and those of his fellow internet communicators, will likely have more political effect than the recent and arid tome of the Law Commission. Because Slater is refining an aged principle in the newest medium. And because the current law so obviously deviates from any objective for justice. 

Concerns raised at the Hand Mirror and from media law expert Steven Price.  

Generally speaking, I agree with Whale Oil’s point that suppression orders are social engineering.  Only about 730 criminal cases of a possible 150,000 get name suppression each year.  No crime for Mr Pakeha Middle Class business man.  No crime for Mr Politician, or Mr High Level Sportsman. 

But if the focus is narrowed to suppression in sexual violence, it’s far from simple.  After conviction, those who commit sexual violence should be able to be named, provided it does not identify their victim(s).  When their victim(s) are happy themselves to be named, and so name suppression of the offender is only to protect him/her, then they should be able to be named.  This would happen more often than people think.

But there are many cases where it would not happen, including child abuse cases.  And why should victims of sexual violence be subjected to the trial by media that, let’s be honest, we know would happen?

Or what about a case like this?  Man using child porn, name protected at least partly because of his wife and children.  What if his children are adults, and don’t feel they need protection?  I have to say, if my father was convicted of using child pornography I would not be interested in pretending he was innocent.  I would tell people, and I would fight him getting name suppression.

This is a harsh call, because my father, to my knowledge, and believe me we discuss these things fairly frequently, is most unlikely to use child pornography or sexual violate women or children.

My point is simply that I believe victims of sexual violence (in the criminal case sense) should have some say over blanket name suppression, and that where naming the offender does not necessarily identify the victim, the offender should be named.  I also believe that if name suppression is to “protect” other people, they should be consulted before suppression is granted.

Essentially, why on earth shouldn’t your reputation and ability to earn money, respect etc be dented by your actions?  The arguments that stop poor wife-beating All Blacks being named, or sexually offending entertainers do not seem to me very compelling.  

While of course it’s true that the media isn’t going to be interested in reporting on the same crimes committed by less well-known people, this shouldn’t protect the famous or rich from consequences.

But back to the media – are they so keen on this issue because they want to break down stereotypes of who commits crime?  I’ll remind you again of how the DomPo responded to my suggestion of writing a story about Parihaka – not without Police raids, baby

But perhaps other media are less sure of who criminals are.

Or is there an analogy to media reporting on suicide?  The NZ media champ at the bit to break suicide reporting guidelines due to their committment to – well, judge this cover page story for yourself. 

All of which makes the issue of suppression much more complex than a knee jerk reaction.

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