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Name suppression laws tighten

Monday 5 Mar 2012 7:10 p.m.

Judith Collins (file)

Judith Collins (file)

By 3 News online staff

Law reforms making it harder to get name suppression came into effect yesterday, in what Justice Minister Judith Collins says represents a substantial reform to criminal procedure. 

Ms Collins says the new legislation should add clarity to the laws surrounding name suppression, which she says “could be granted too easily and inconsistently” prior to the legislation.

The Criminal Procedure Act 2011, which contains the new legislation, “sets out a clear set of criteria for the courts to use when deciding whether suppression is appropriate or not”, she says.

Before the law change, defendants could be granted name suppression when publication of their name could have resulted in ‘undue’ hardship for them or others. This has now been raised to ‘extreme’ hardship – and being in the public eye isn’t enough for automatic suppression.

There will be no presumption of extreme hardship simply because a defendant is well-known, which Ms Collins says upholds the principle of “open justice”.

“There is no reason for a defendant to get name suppression simply because they are famous.”

Automatic name suppression will continue to apply to victims of specified sexual offending, defendants in cases of incest or sexual conduct with a dependent family member, and child witnesses.

Other changes enacted as part of the Criminal Procedure Act will allow courts to set bail conditions so offenders take steps to progress their cases in a timely fashion, and let trials continue with 10 jurors when the judge determines carrying on would be “in the interests of justice”. Trials can currently continue with 10 jurors in “exceptional circumstances”; the law change aims to increase the circumstances where these trials can continue.  

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