12 Jan 2010

Blogger could face contempt of court charge

3:08 pm on 12 January 2010

A blogger who has deliberately breached name suppression orders could be charged with contempt of court, police say.

Detective Inspector John Winter, of Nelson, says the website used computer coding to mask the text, which, when converted, revealed the name of a man charged last week with indecently assaulting a girl aged between 12 and 16.

Police technical staff were among those able to decrypt the information.

The man responsible for the online posting, blogger Cameron Slater, is already facing charges for deliberate breaches of other suppression orders.

Just days ago, he appeared in court on five charges of breaching court suppression orders last year by identifying two prominent people accused in separate sex offence cases.

Detective Inspector Winter told Summer Report police still have the option of charging Mr Slater with contempt of court and of taking him into custody.

He says Mr Slater's actions attack the very heart of the criminal justice system, and says the blogger is using people as tools for his own political ends.

Police say defiance of a court suppression order is irresponsible and could lead to identification of the alleged victim.

Suppression over-used, says blogger

Mr Slater told Summer Report name suppression appears to be used frequently, particularly if the person is part of the establishment, such as a doctor, lawyer or celebrity.

"In some cases you've got a very small population of who it could possibly be and so in trying to protect victims you're actually victimising other people at the same time."

Name suppression should almost never be used, he says, in line with practice in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

Auckland lawyer Chris Comesky says Mr Slater is thumbing his nose at a law that is in place for a good reason and is almost inviting anarchy by deliberately breaching court name suppression orders.

Mr Comesky says police should increase the charges against Mr Slater, so he faces the same penalties as someone charged with perverting the course of justice, which include a possible jail term.

A spokesperson for the Crown Law Office in Wellington says it has been aware of allegations made about Mr Slater's website for some time.

It says it is monitoring the site, but won't comment further until after its investigation is completed.

More education of bloggers needed - lawyer

A lawyer specialising in information law, John Edwards, says there needs to be more education of bloggers, who he refers to as informal journalists.

"Mainstream media will go to court and contest a suppression order which they think is not in the public interest.

"They don't just ignore it or flout it, and if you do, there are consequences. I think that's what this person is finding."