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ACT Proposes Bill To Restore Open Courts

“I am delighted that Justices Potter and Nicholson have upheld freedom of speech as a fundamental right. The Herald’s principled campaign has served us all,” said ACT Justice spokesman Stephen Franks

Mr Franks was commenting on yesterdays High Court ruling that Judge David Harvey had overlooked the Bill of Rights in granting name suppression to an American billionaire caught smuggling cannabis into New Zealand.

“Assuming he does not appeal successfully, there is still a challenge. The ‘rulers know best’ school of lawyers could drown freedom under the exceptions left by the High Court judgement. I will draft a Private Members Bill to protect against that.

“The judgement is a fragile protection when a Judge can suppress if he or she explains that it is ‘demonstrably justified’.

“The risk comes from the cancerous growth of privacy law. References to privacy principles have been put into statues by well-meaning, but legally ignorant politicians. These have given lawyers the room to turn ancient principles on their head. In one generation the right to know has become the right to hide. The Official Information Act of 20 years ago, goes in the opposite direction to the Privacy Act of 1993.

“Of course privacy is a value to be protected. But it should never hide wrong doing. It lets people throttle and thwart those who seek to find out or tell the truth about them.

“Privacy principles have acquired a life of their own unrelated to the proper scope of privacy law. They now support an army of rule makers and compliance officers, and those who want to stifle their own reputations.

“A good first step would be to restore the basic principle that offender name suppression should apply only when essential to protect a victim who supports that suppression. My private Members Bill will provide for this.

“Minister of Justice, Phil Goff, has recently stated support for restricting name suppression in relation to sex offenders. I welcome that, but not if it is confined to that narrow category.

“We must restore the principle of open Courts. Our parents and grand parents assumed that was basic to justice. If my Bill is over taken by a sensible Government measure I will be pleased, provided it is wide enough, and more than lip service. It must not leave room for the ‘privacy’ busy bodies to resurrect their restrictions on newly devised grounds,” said Stephen Franks.


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