Everyone should get name suppression when accused of a crime, including victims and witnesses.
Potentially innocent people, and other related parties, should be free of harrasment, loss of income, loss of reputation and other issues, until such time as a verdict is given.
Interested parties can attend court and view court records to ensure that process is transparent.
Once a trial has completed, and where lifting name suppression does not identify a victim with name suppression, then name suppression should be lifted, allowing the media to report those involved including the details of the judgement.
Name suppression prior to a trial should include supressing the names, and addreses, but not the age, gender, region and occupation of the involved parties.
Media are free to report the circumstances of a crime, including the age, gender, region and occupation of the involved parties, and discuss the circumstances in which the alleged crime took place. At completion of a trial, media can report on the judgement and identify persons, after a "fair trial" has been able to be completed.
Why not permanent name suppression?
Crimes like rape may be prone to be found not guilty where not enough evidence exists to establish the crime. A verdict of not guilty does not mean innocent. It should still be a matter of permanent record that a hearing took place.
If a crime really did not take place, then the accussed should have fair access to the justice system to seek a judgement of innocence (which should reestablish permanent name supression) and/or sue for defamation.
What about medical practitioners or teachers accused of crimes that other patients or students should be safe guarded from in the interim?
Justice is not swift, and the defense team for an accused party should have a fair time to prepare for their defense.
It would be fair that where the accused is in a situation where they could cause danger to the public, a court could rule that an accused person either be held in jail, on bail, or ordered to take a "holiday" (and potentially be monitored) until such time as the matter can be heard.
There could be an issue with malicious charges being made against professionals, and insurance should be taken by such professionals and educational institutions to deal with this undesireable situation. Malicious acusations could always be counter charged for defamation and reimbursment sought.
With a higher degreee of name suppression, there will always be winners and losers. It is important that a fair trial happens swiftly, for both the accussed and the alleged victim. If a judgement of guilt is established, then great. If a judgement of innocence is established, then great. If a judgement of not guilty is established, then at least it had a fair hearing before the media start identifying the involved parties.
Posted: Friday 16 December 2011