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I Happen To Agree With Michael Laws On Something - Let's Do Something About Name Suppression

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Contributor:
Chris Ford
Chris Ford

Today, I happen to agree with Michael Laws on something - that our name suppression laws are ridiculous as they have (yet again) placed innocent people under suspicion.

Laws made his comments about the need to reform our name suppression laws following a Nelson District Court Judge granting a former MP name suppression. This follows the former MP being charged with the alleged sexual assault of a 13 year old girl.

This is a very serious offence with which the former MP has been charged but given the high profile of the accused, the justice system has (yet again) decided to withold his or her name. It can be argued that there is merit in doing this as, should the accused be found not guilty after the administration of due process, then  he or she can get on with their life following any possible acquittal.

But as I have written in previous blogs on this subject, name suppression is more likely to be applied to those prominent individuals who can probably afford a good lawyer to argue their case in court. By contrast, if the accused is a person who has lesser status in the eyes of the community (e.g. a low-paid worker) then name suppression isn't automatically applied. Therefore, if a low paid worker is accused of a serious offence and is then found not guilty in a court of law, their lives are more likely to be publicly blemished compared to those of a celebrity in the same boat.

That's the principal reason behind my objection to current name suppression laws. But Laws has introduced another facet to this debate in that through not naming a specific individual but only allowing for the identification of either their current or previous occupation, then all prominent individuals with the same occupational profile are at risk of being wrongly accused.

Justice Minister Simon Power should now take greater note of the continuing use of name suppression in high profile cases as Laws has pointed out and move to have the law changed when Parliament resumes. While other matters (understandably) are also pending on the legislative agenda, justice demands that openess and accountability should reign (and soon), even at the risk of a celebrity having their reputation unjustly damaged should an acquittal be rendered.

After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

 

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