21 Apr 2011

More suppression rule breaches by Justice Ministry

8:05 pm on 21 April 2011

The Justice Ministry is ignoring recommendations aimed at preventing it from breaching suppression orders again.

Justice Minister Simon Power ordered an investigation after the ministry wrongfully published the names of two sexual abuse victims on its Judicial Decisions Online website in February this year.

At present, one person is responsible for vetting judicial decisions before they are published on the internet.

The investigation by former Law Society president John Marshall, QC, released on Thursday finds nine more cases of similar breaches.

The report says after the two victims were named, the ministry checked all 1530 sexual abuse judgements on its website and found that nine others were likely to be in breach of the statutory prohibition.

It says judges had not flagged the cases to have names suppressed.

Mr Marshall says the ministry needs to make changes to avoid mistakes happening again, including employing at least three people who are legally trained to vet judicial decisions before they are published.

However, the ministry says it is confident it will not breach its suppression orders again.

General manager higher courts, Paula Tesoriero, says it will continue to employ only one legally trained person but has reduced how many judgements they must read.

"Because we have changed what that primary role is doing and reduced what he is focusing on there is less of a need, we think, to have three people who are legally qualified," she says.

"We've also got his manager double-checking every single decision of a sexual nature."

Ms Tesoriero says it will also increase training and review policies and procedures behind this.

Justice Minister Simon Power says a foolproof system is needed.

Better training needed - Law Society

The Law Society says it is surprised more suppressed names were not accidently published online by the Justice Ministry, saying the procedures in place were not thorough.

President Jonathan Temm says the staff undertaking this work need to be better trained and better supervised.

Mr Temm says they need a better understanding of the work they are reading and their obligations in respect of that.