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Name Suppression – #1

16/12/2018

The first in a series of posts around the topic of name suppression sparked by the murder of Grace Millane

The issue of name suppression and other reporting restrictions has been in NZ media a lot this week.

RNZ  has carried several segments which give a fairly good view of the issue:

Let’s start here with a segment on Jesse Mulligan

The man accused of murdering backpacker Grace Millane has interim name suppression.

His name will be kept secret for 20 days while his lawyers works on an appeal. Victims groups have slammed the move, saying name suppression laws are archaic.

Meanwhile some overseas media, and people on the internet have named the man. Which begs the question – can name suppression really be enforced in the digital age?

Otago Law Professor Mark Henaghan explains the intricacies of the rules.

Then there was this from The Panel, not Adam’s regular listening, but Stephen Franks was on

The man arrested in relation to the death of Grace Millane has been granted name suppression for 20 days, but social media and overseas outlets have been flaunting that decision all over the place. How do you keep lips sealed in an age of near-total connectedness?

In passing might Adam suggest to RNZ that the word  sought was flouting, not flaunting, but we digress

Then an article at the RNZ website:-

Grace Millane case: Suppression breaches could endanger trial

Top lawyers fear the trial of the man accused of murdering Grace Millane may be stopped from going ahead because people continue to breach name suppression orders.

The New Zealand Bar Association says the man must be given a fair trial.

President Kate Davenport QC and vice-president Jonathan Eaton QC are calling on those who are breaching the orders to stop doing so.

Mr Eaton said those breaching suppression orders could not only endanger a fair trial but “potentially any future trial at all”.

“There is an alarming trend in the reporting and hearing of information of this case that could open the way to defence counsel arguing that the accused could not get a fair trial,” Mr Eaton said.

“It is, for example, entirely inappropriate for media organisations and individuals to say where people can find information about the accused.

“The publicity about the accused undermines the prospect of finding an impartial jury.”

That is one side of the issue. In the main the coverage has mainly been one way in the media. Many no doubt taking their approach from comments by Andrew Little viz:

Breaching the name suppression of the man accused of Grace Millane’s murder could result in the killer walking free, says the Justice Minister.

At least one overseas media outlet published the 26-year-old’s name after his court appearance on Monday, and while the name was later removed from the online article it spread via social media.

Andrew Little says this is a serious breach of judicial law and could mean whoever killed the 22-year-old backpacker is never held to justice.

and the previously referred to comments from the NZ Bar Association.

Yet in the accused’s first court appearance, Sam Hurley at NZ Herald, we see:-

The man’s lawyer, Ian Brookie, said: “A lot has happened in the last two days.”

He sought interim name suppression for his client based on fair trial rights, which was opposed by police, the Millane family and the press.

Judge Thomas declined the application for name suppression, however, Brookie instantly appealed the decision which automatically imposes a 20 working day suppression under New Zealand law.

But there is more to consider as we shall see later.

 

 

Yet according to this the District Court Judge refused name suppression, but the defence appealed. So is the breach truly that eveil.

NZ H

Then Peter Williams wrote, at NZ Herald

The basic tenet, the guiding principle of our justice system, and the justice system of any civilised society is that everyone has a right to a fair trial and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

That’s why there have been many disturbing moments in the aftermath of the discovery of Grace Millane’s body, and the subsequent first court appearance of the alleged killer.

As yet, we know nothing about how she died, where she died or how her body finished up at Scenic Drive in the Waitākeres.

The murder accused was given name suppression and will have that for at least the next 20 working days, maybe longer. There is nothing especially unusual about that, nor the method of it being imposed.

Once his lawyer said he was appealing the judge’s decision not to grant suppression, then it automatically kicks in. It’s the oldest trick in a defence lawyer’s arsenal.

But the outcry against the suppression and the presumed guilt of this man by members of the public had way too much of a lynch mob mentality about it. Even the comments of the judge at the initial District Court hearing were unusual.

He offered sympathy to Grace’s family, of course, and then said he hoped “this would be a fair, swift process and brings you some peace”.

The ongoing problem of name suppression in the internet age cannot be solved. How do you legislate against websites based in overseas jurisdictions who decide that New Zealand law doesn’t apply to them? The answer is you can’t. The application of New Zealand law stops at the border.

So when a British tourist dies in this country and a man is accused of her murder, then the highly competitive British media is not going to hold back. When the actions of the tabloid press are reported back here, anybody who wants to know who the accused is can find out ridiculously easily.

The internet has compromised justice. You can’t hold back the tide of technology, but the rights of the accused – and he still has them – have been affected.

Then there’s the matter of the Prime Minister’s comments.

Has a New Zealand political leader ever made such an emotional comment about a homicide victim before? More pertinently, why would the Prime Minister think it appropriate to comment on one homicide victim in a week when there were at least three other homicides in the country?

Yes, the death of Grace Millane is truly shocking. We have a young woman, in the year of the MeToo movement, being killed. But why the outpouring of grief for her and not for Rima Sikei, a 21-year-old who died in Mt Albert on Friday night. Where was the Prime Minister’s sympathy for him?

Or for Frank Tyson, whose decapitated body had been found in Lower Hutt the same weekend that Grace went missing?

Politicising a homicide case is not appropriate. Do it for one, and you really should do it for all.

The case of Grace Millane could not be more tragic. But let us remember we are a mature society which prides itself on justice for all. The police say they have a lot of work to do in their forensic examinations at both the CityLife Hotel and in the Waitākere Ranges. They can’t present their prosecution case until they collect the evidence. A trial cannot take place until all the evidence is ready to be presented.

Amidst some way-too-emotional comments by people who should know better, the most principled stance has been taken by Kelvin Davis, the often embattled Labour deputy leader.

In his role as Minister of Tourism, he said he would not comment because the case was an ongoing police investigation.

Thank you for your sanity, Kelvin. We needed more of it this week

The Washinton Post had two relevant articles

one on Pell

one on Millane

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