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Government Will Look Closely At Law Commission Report - Minister

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Simon Power
Simon Power

Wellington, Nov 16 NZPA - The Government will have a close look at recommendations in the Law Commission's report Suppressing Names and Evidence, says Justice Minister Simon Power.

"These issues are at the heart of the justice system, and the Government will be looking closely at what this report says."

In the report released today, the Law Commission says court proceedings should be more open and rules governing the suppression of names should be tighter and more transparent.

The report recommends significant changes for name suppression. "There is merit in having tougher standards before people can get name suppression, and in specifying in legislation the ground on which suppression can be granted," Mr Power said.

The commission said courts currently had "broad discretion" to block the publication of names and identifying information.

The suppression of names or evidence should be restricted to exceptional cases and be made for compelling reasons, the report said.

Reasons should be specified in legislation and should reflect a high threshold.

The commission said name suppression should be used only where there was a risk of prejudice to a fair trial, undue hardship to victims and the accused or would identify another person who has suppression.

Suppression could also be granted where publication of information was likely to prejudice the maintenance of law or cast suspicion on other people, it said.

"The grounds on which suppression may be granted need to be clarified and tightened -- they should be transparent, explicit and consistently applied," commission president Sir Geoffrey Palmer said.

The reason for the suppression must be given, he said.

Mr Power acknowledged there also needs to be "a real discussion around the presumption of temporary name suppression, and around renewal of temporary orders."

"I believe a good case can be made for tightening up the procedure for temporary orders," he said .

"We must continue to ensure that, wherever possible, what happens in court is transparent.

"But that must be balanced by the need to protect the administration of the system and the right of every defendant to a fair trail."

According to the report, procedures for granting temporary name suppression orders should be stricter and they should be renewed only if evidence is produced.

They should also state their expiration date rather than being "simply continued from one appearance to the next." Evidence can currently be suppressed in the interest of public morality.

The commission said public morality was not a useful or appropriate reason for suppression.

"The presumption of openness in this context should be departed from only sparingly and on clearly articulated grounds."

Current provisions for closing a court to the public and press did not adequately reflect the high threshold and needed "greater specificity".

Courts must be closed only to prevent undue disruption, if security or defence of New Zealand required it, to avoid prejudicing a fair trial, to avoid endangering a person and where suppression was not sufficient, the commission said.

Mr Power said he was "also very interested in the notion of a national register of court suppression orders and in moves to deal with the issue of controlling suppressed information on the internet".

The report recommended priority be given to a review into a possible national register of suppression orders , and it should be an offence for internet service providers to fail to remove or block access to suppressed information.

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