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Justice Minister floats name suppression database idea

10 July 2019

Justice Minister Andrew Little says he has raised with the Ministry of Justice the idea of a central repository of information that has been suppressed in court.

"I am keen to explore that a little further. I mean, bearing in mind however that when a suppression order is given it takes effect the minute the judge hands it down," he has told TVNZ.

"But I think there is a case you know, even for New Zealand media as well, there ought to be a place you can easily go to find out whether in relation to a particular case, however you describe it, there are suppression orders that apply in relation to it. That would be helpful."

His comments follow news that Google has apologised for its breaches of name suppression earlier this year.

TVNZ says Mr Little said it would take "a wee while" to set up such a repository.

"I'm not going to give time frames on it. I've discovered while being a minister things that you think the Government can do quickly seldom ever are," he said.

Name suppression law reform

One of the last major reviews of the law relating to name suppression was in 2011 with the Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill. This resulted in the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 which sets many of the current rules relating to suppression. The New Zealand Law Society's submission on the name suppression elements of the bill in clauses 204 to 215 identified a risk that the principles of open justice and freedom of expression were not given appropriate weight in determining whether name suppression should be granted

New Zealand Law Society criminal law committee member and Crown Prosecutor with Gordon & Pilditch, Chris Macklin, says the Law Society has had input on amendments and various aspects of the name suppression regime over the years.

He says the purpose of name suppression orders is to protect the integrity of the criminal process, and ensure a fair trial for the accused. 

"It's important for all individuals and businesses operating in New Zealand to respect that purpose, and not take steps that breach such orders, and risk undermining the criminal justice system and the fairness of a criminal trial," Mr Macklin says

"If a central register of orders makes compliance with such orders more likely, then that is a positive step.  The devil will obviously be in the details, and it will be necessary to work closely with the media to make sure it's practical."

Last updated on the 16th September 2019