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Name suppression for Wanaka escapees would be wrong - Free Speech Union

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Free Speech Union is calling for the couple - one reportedly a child of a Government official - who breached lockdown not to have name suppression says Free Speech Union spokesperson, and lawyer, Stephen Franks.

"Name suppression will be the worst move for the Auckland couple charged with a cunning move to Wanaka via Hamilton. There are no good reasons for name suppression, and three bad ones.

"First, shame - the fear that your hypocrisy or lying will be uncovered should be a primary deterrent.

"Second, shame should be the main punishment for a ‘social’ crime. Police resources and court time are wasted in such cases, which would not be true if the community were able to impose a more natural and automatic punishment and if Stuff was free to publish what it 'knew’. Insider arrogance and the love of having ‘secret knowledge’ lies behind much of our substitution of police and court resources for open reporting.

"Thirdly, in this case name suppression will be an own goal. The Streisand effect will operate eventually even if the defendants are tempted by the thought that they can hide their shame behind a court order, and even if the QC gets them a discharge based on some technicality.

"Effectiveness of community consensus against contagion depends on the restrictions being seen as fair. Name suppression will contribute to suspicion, that the elite don’t think the cost of lockdown, let alone the health risks of covid spreading, outweighs an embarrassment cost to some of them scoffing at the law. We need to see the law being enforced, with details that will deter others.

"We, the public, should know. Freedom of speech is our right to know, not just journalists’ right to tell us. Free speech protects us from potential hypocrisy of powerful insiders. We need to see immediately that we are indeed equal before the law. And true remorse or contrition would have the people charged not trying to hide behind an application that is a byword for privilege."

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