5 Oct 2010

Name suppression to be harder to get

8:06 pm on 5 October 2010

Being well-known in New Zealand will no longer be able to be used as a reason for name suppression, under new laws proposed by the Government.

The Cabinet has signed off on a range of proposals that would make it more difficult for defendants in court to get their name, or evidence, suppressed.

Suppression would only be granted on grounds including that there is a real risk of prejudice to a fair trial, or to prevent undue hardship to a victim.

Justice Minister Simon Power says that, at the moment, courts have broad discretion and there are no specific criteria.

He says the legislation would also make it clear that there is no presumption of hardship just because someone is famous.

Other grounds for name suppression would include where publication would identify another person whose name is suppressed, where it would endanger any person's safety, where it would cast suspicion on someone else, or prejudice the interests of the maintenance of law.

Automatic name suppression will also be extended to child victims. At present, this only applies to child witnesses and victims of specific crimes.

A new provision would also cover internet based sites, and impose greater obligations upon them to remove or block access to suppressed material.

Increased penalties

The penalties for breaching suppression will be increased.

For individuals, the maximum jail term will be doubled from three to six months. Judges would be able to impose a $1000 fine instead, if the circumstances warrant it.

The maximum fine for organisations will increase substantially from $5000 to $100,000.

The minister will also look at the idea of a national register for media, which would contain details of any current suppression orders.

These proposals are the Government's response to a Law Commission report on name suppression, delivered last November.

Labour leader Phil Goff says his party is happy to see the rules about name suppression tightened, as it should only be granted on the rare occasion.

Mr Goff says the rules should be tougher and applied consistently to all people who appear before the courts.