Name suppression rules tightened

  • Judith Collins

Offenders will find it harder to get name suppression from the courts from today as the first group provisions in the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 come into force.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said these provisions, which were passed late last year, represent a substantial reform to criminal procedure.

“Grounds for granting name suppression weren’t always clear, and could be granted too easily and inconsistently - the Criminal Procedure Act changes this. It sets out a clear set of criteria for the courts to use when deciding whether suppression is appropriate or not.

“Previously defendants could be granted name suppression in situations where publication of their name may have resulted in ‘undue’ hardship to them or others. The test for granting name suppression has now been raised to ‘extreme’ hardship,” said Ms Collins.

There will be no presumption of extreme hardship simply because a defendant is well-known.

“The principle of ‘open justice’ is fundamental to our justice system and there is no reason for a defendant to get name suppression simply because they are famous,” Ms Collins said.

Certain special provisions are also made, for example, to continue to protect victims of sexual offending. Automatic name suppression will continue to apply to victims of specified sexual offending, defendants in cases of incest or sexual conduct with a dependent family member, and child witnesses.

Other changes introduced will:

• extend to the High Court the District Court practice of giving sentence indications

• enable the courts to impose bail conditions to ensure offenders take the necessary steps to progress their cases in a timely fashion, such as attending an appointment with a probation officer for the purpose of preparing a pre-sentence report, and

• allow trials to continue with ten jurors in more circumstances by giving judges the discretion to continue a hearing where this is in the 'interests of justice' rather than in 'exceptional circumstances' as currently.