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Franks Seeks Change to Name Suppression Rules

Franks Seeks Change to Name Suppression Rules

Tuesday 5 Mar 2002 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Justice, Law & Order

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today put before parliament proposals to have name suppression orders cancelled automatically once an offender is convicted - unless the victim of the crime applies for suppression to continue.

Mr Franks initiative follows the case where a Christchurch businessman had his name suppressed after being convicted of trying to hire a 12 year old girl for sex on the

grounds that publication of his name could threaten his business and the job security of his employees. The suppression order granted to 37-year-old Craig McKay was lifted today by the High Court after an appeal from the Solicitor General.

The proposals by Mr Franks are contained in a Supplementary Order Paper to be debated as part of the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill.

"The current general principle is that the names of persons accused of criminal offences should be published unless there is good cause to suppress them.

"However, the courts have paid too much regard to factors such as: social, financial, and professional consequences for the defendant and to family members, employers, employees, and even acquaintances, claimed harm to the mental or physical health of an offender or close family member and a balancing of the seriousness of the offence against the effect of publication. These factors mean that the offender can gamble on evading publicity.

"ACT considers that instead of the Judge taking account of the bad effect of publicity on a criminal's occupation, the criminal should take that into account before deciding to offend. It is not fair on others in `privileged' occupations to leave the public suspicious that bad members are being sheltered.

"ACT believes:

· Our valuable inherited right to open justice is compromised by any impression that name suppression is given too readily:

· In the importance in a democracy of freedom of speech, and the right of the media to report court proceedings fairly and accurately as "surrogates of the public":

· That the law must be seen to be `no respecter of persons' or status, applying equally to all. Name suppression is often seen, rightly or wrongly, as a form of class or occupational privilege.

· Open justice is required to avoid suspicion falling unjustly on a limited class of people of the same age and occupation:

· Disclosure promotes the possibility of other victims coming forward:

· Open justice reduces the risk of further offending in many circumstances. For example some kinds of offending rely on the offender gaining the trust of uninformed people. It can add to temptation for an offender if further crime seems too easy, because neighbours or employers or customers are not on guard.:

· Publication of name is an appropriate element of punishment once guilt is established. If publicity will be a strong penalty in a particular case, the sentence can be more lenient than would otherwise be imposed.

"ACT believes that acceptance of responsibility is the vital price to be paid for freedom. Shame for wrongdoing is part of that price. Shame is an inherent part of any healthy society's response to crime.

"If we suppress the natural mechanisms that cause people to want to protect their reputations, and their family reputations, then we can expect to need even more toughening up of State punishments. Social sanctions and state sanctions should work together.

I look forward therefore to having my amendments debated in Parliament and trust that other parties will support these measures, so that shaming of the offender is once again an automatic and integral part of the sentencing system. Offenders must not expect to shelter behind name suppression orders after conviction," Stephen Franks said.


For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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