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Sensible Sentencing Trust warned over suppression breach

17 March 2017

Sensible Sentencing Trust warned over suppression breach

A Sensible Sentencing Trust (SST) press release published after a recent high-profile case breached suppression orders made by the High Court. Although the Solicitor-General concluded that a prosecution for contempt of court was not warranted, she warned the SST that it must take greater care not to breach suppression orders in future.

When the SST drafted its press release it had failed to seek clarification from the High Court of what suppression orders were in place. Neither the press release author nor the person responsible for publishing the press release to an SST mailing list was aware that the press release would be automatically published to other platforms (the SST website and twitter account, and
scoop.co.nz).

Once the suppression order breach was brought to the SST’s attention genuine efforts were made to retract the press release. However, because the extent of the automatic publication was not known, it remained publicly available for many hours. Representatives of the SST subsequently apologised to the Court.

The Deputy Solicitor-General (Criminal), Brendan Horsley, has sent the Sensible Sentencing Trust a formal warning letter detailing these findings.

Open justice is a fundamental value of our criminal justice system. Nevertheless, in particular cases valid reasons not to publicise information may outweigh that general principle. The Court protects that information through suppression orders. As the law officer responsible for contempt prosecutions, the Solicitor-General reminds all media organizations and others who comment publicly upon matters before the courts to be aware of their duty to abide by orders of the court. Particularly when an organisation is aware that suppression orders exist, it should seek further information directly from the Court.

Organisations commenting upon matters before the courts should always be aware of the platforms upon which their publications are disseminated, and have procedures in place to immediately remove all copies of a publication which breaches a suppression order.

ends

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