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Secret Justice Is Wrong

Secret Justice Is Wrong

Stephen Franks
Tuesday, 26 July 2005
Press Releases - Crime & Justice

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks refused to identify the accused person he described in Parliament today as a star in a TVNZ program whose name the court suppressed with TVNZ support.

"ACT is completely opposed to the secrecy that smothers the truth in our criminal justice system (http://www.act.org.nz/item.aspx/26686). We have crusaded for years to let sunlight in to closed courts and to restore our inheritance of open justice. I believe that parliamentary privilege should be used to uncover things that the powerful should not be allowed to hide.

"So-called privacy rights are used by Labour ministers to hide the truth about parole offending, the failure of so-called "reintegration programmes", the misleading crime statistics and the reasons for dodgy court decisions.

"Judges have failed to protect the independence of their courts from political censoring. Just this month I've been told by a court registry that as a matter of protocol any MP's inquiry about a case is referred for vetting and approval by the Minister of Courts. I've had no explanation from Minister Rick Barker. I first sought the case information more than three weeks ago. I still have no indication whether I'll ever see anything from the file. The delay is a constitutional disgrace.

"We have Internet disclosure making a mockery of court orders purporting to protect celebrities accused of drug offences. The courts never seem to stop to think just whose interests are now served by useless orders. Virtually everyone with a significant connection to an offender is likely to find out.

"The uncertainty in that case casts suspicion on countless innocent individuals. In the current case it probably has caused breaches of securities law and enabled insider trading.

"ACT policy is to end all offender name suppression unless the victim asks for it but I will not breach the court order by further disclosure in Parliament unless there is no alternative in order to expose the complicity of a state-owned enterprise and Labour politicians in a cover-up for improper reasons.

"It is now up to the Minister of Broadcasting. If he does not satisfy Parliament that he has fully investigated the role of TVNZ in relation to the suppression I queried in question time today, and there is a satisfactory explanation, I will make sure that the public are not kept in the dark.

"There is no excuse for defending continued secrecy in this or other cases. I believe our judiciary is not corrupt, but the culture of secrecy leaves room for suspicion that judges favour the powerful. When the dominant government owned news source for New Zealanders colludes in a cover-up it becomes more sinister.

"I will not hesitate to expose what appears to be, at the least, judicial toleration of political interference to stop an MP finding out more about a scandalous case.

ENDS

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