Dom Post et al on name suppression

January 13th, 2010 at 10:12 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial today is on blogs and . Extracts:

As the internet has transformed the world, the blogosphere within has become pervasive. Anyone with a computer can either read the opinions of people who craft blogs – sometimes, merely illiterate streams of consciousness – or pen one themselves.

That some who cannot spell, let alone write, think that the world is gagging to know their business is as presumptuous as tweeters who think everyone is interested in their self-absorbed lives. Be that as it may.

Some blogs demand attention, in this country those by, for example, David Farrar, Russell Brown and .

I’m not sure if that means we are excluded from the description of merely being illiterate streams of consciousness!

Attention Slater has now got.

Last month, police charged him with breaching name suppression orders when, on his WhaleOil blog, he posted pictorial clues identifying the accused in two high-profile sexual offence cases. This week, he revealed by way of binary code the identity of a former national figure accused of a sexual attack on a 13-year-old girl.

Nelson police, who laid the latest charges, call Slater’s actions irresponsible, because they fear they might lead to public identification of the victim, whom the suppression order was intended to protect.

Slater is on a mission. He has said, outside the courtroom, that he believes everyone should be equal before the law, that celebrities and the wealthy have their identities suppressed more often and more easily than do ordinary Kiwis, and that the law needs changing.

The agrees. But there are better ways to lobby for a more open court system than by putting at risk the future of a teenage girl.

I agree, but point out a newspaper had already effectively done the same thing.

At the same time, Slater has forced police, perhaps the solicitor-general, possibly Justice Minister Simon Power, Courts Minister Georgina te Heu Heu, and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, and maybe, later, the judiciary, to confront the fact that the Criminal Justice Act, which gives judges the power to suppress certain information relating to cases before them, needs revision.

Which I believe is likely, on the basis of the Law Commission report and the comments at the time from Simon Power.

In the meantime, it is reassuring to see the Crown Law Office has decided that it can no longer apply the law relating to suppression unequally. At times of egregious breach, the solicitor-general has been keen to go after those in the mainstream media who have broken suppression orders or otherwise committed contempt of court.

For the most part, however, inhabitants of the blogosphere have been merely warned about their cavalier disregard of suppressed information or other transgressions, notably during Clayton Weatherston’s trial for murder.

Either everyone who breaches this law is prosecuted, or no-one is. And were the latter to become the reality, those sections of the Criminal Justice Act pertaining to suppression orders need to be repealed.

I find it quite funny that yesterday we had bloggers such as myself saying that the media are getting away with transgressions, while today the media are saying the bloggers are getting away!

An excellent summary of the whole issue has been done by Steven Price. I won’t do extracts because people should read the whole thing.

Law Professor Andrew Geddis has done a second post on the issue.

Also a number of posts from media lecturer Martin Hirst at Ethical Martini.

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20 Responses to “Dom Post et al on name suppression”

  1. GPT1 (2,100 comments) says:

    I meant to note yesterday that there seems to be an attitude within the media that the ‘bloggers are finally getting their come-uppance’. I guess they spend significant money on lawyers trying to avoid prosecution (or in the case of the HoS push it as far as possible without getting prosecuted) whereas bloggers tend to rely a little more on luck and commentators not being too loose.

    I still maintain that the HoS should be charged.

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  2. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,810 comments) says:

    David, you and the DomPost have repeated the deliberate contempt of the suppression order perpetrated by The Herald.

    “the identity of a former national figure accused of a sexual attack on a 13-year-old girl.”

    There is no way as long as his arse points to the ground that the person concerned is a national figure in the accepted sense.. He has almost zero public profile.

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  3. jaba (2,091 comments) says:

    I even had to google him as I couldn’t remember who he was.
    Regardless of what people think of the Whale and his crusade, he has brought a contentious issue to the attention of the counrty and Power etc will have to sort the issue out and in the public eye.
    Once sorted, what is the next dumb law that needs attention?

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  4. NeilM (370 comments) says:

    “he has brought a contentious issue to the attention of the counrty”

    sounds exactly like Minto and his supporters justifying their objectionable behaviour.

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  5. big bruv (13,450 comments) says:

    Initially I was supportive of Whale, I totally agree that he was right to out the entertainer and the Olympian, both of these low life deserve no sympathy and no name suppression, I cannot see any earthly reason why these two have their names suppressed.

    Where he lost me was in his outing of the ‘comedian’ and the ex MP, yes these men are accused of horrendous crimes and if they are found guilty they deserve nothing but the full force of the law.

    However, there are innocent victims involved here, Whale seems to dismiss them and uses numerous supportive emails as justification for his actions.
    If the public are deprived of the right to know the names of the accused because it will lessen the trauma experienced by the victims then so be it, our desire to know the names of the accused will just have to take a back seat to the needs and emotional health of the poor buggers on the receiving end of these men’s alleged crimes.

    It also seems that Whale has let this whole issue get out of control, the issue as far as I can see is now all about him and his battle with the law, the overwhelming impression I now have of this is that Whale is using these cases as a vehicle to promote himself, he clearly enjoys his new found ‘fame’ and that is concerning.

    The issue should be about inappropriate name suppression, not about self promotion.

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  6. TripeWryter (715 comments) says:

    I still don’t know who the ex-MP is. The ‘code’ at Whale didn’t tell me anything.

    But I did learn a few details from Carolyn Meng-Yee’s story in the Herald on Sunday.

    I suppose that if I could be bothered, and wanted to put the time into it, I could set about putting 2 and 2 together and all the rest.

    But seriously, we have a court system, and it should be allowed to work in the first instance. We should not be tolerating vigilantes who want to take the law into their own hands — and that’s what happens when people think their judgment supersedes the courts’.

    I notice that The Dominion Post’s editorial didn’t mention Meng-Yee’s story. I also noticed – heh – that in its mentions of bloggers the editorial didn’t mention Asian Invasion.

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  7. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,810 comments) says:

    Tripewriter, you must be blind. They quoted the bloody thing.

    “I notice that The Dominion Post’s editorial didn’t mention Meng-Yee’s story.”

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  8. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    This is more whinging from the MSM who seem to think they have an ownership on information. Meanwhile its the media who have been violating supression orders themselves without consequences.

    This is just a big assed bitch that Slater is getting more attention than the Dom and they going to hold their breath until they turn blue and then we’ll all be sorry!

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  9. democracymum (660 comments) says:

    I wonder if it is violating the suppression order to publish the names of the MPs not charged (but under suspicion) in this instance?

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  10. Whafe (652 comments) says:

    This may sound as dumb as shit, but for me the media (newsprint etc), legal system are not keeping up with the age of rapid information spread, differing forms of media (blogs etc etc)…

    The system needs a revamp to take into account that things and times are a changing…

    I hate newspapers in NZ, cause they are so left it makes me puke… hence reading blogs etc…..

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  11. Repton (769 comments) says:

    If the Dom Post wanted attention that badly, they could just breach the name suppression themselves. But I doubt they’ll do this, because they don’t want to face the consequences.

    Whale is evidently more willing to notch up a conviction…

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  12. TripeWryter (715 comments) says:

    Adolf:

    I must be blind. (Please, no speculations about why that might be so — I gave away such practices centuries ago when I decided it wasn’t a mortal sin any more.)

    Anyway, I’ve just gone back and had a look. I see no mention of Carolyn Meng-Yee and the story she wrote in the Herald on Sunday that gave details that could lead, on further investigation, to identifying the man concerned.

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  13. Pascal (2,015 comments) says:

    Is name suppression the real issue? Or is the public consumption of sensationalist “news” stories that are equivalent to old fashioned witch hunts?

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  14. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    I’ll tell you who the name of the MP is. Someone can translate this into English.

    ‘Oku hala ‘ata keu ‘ilo’i e hingoa e Fakafofonga Falealea malolo ko’eni ‘aia ‘oku lolotonga tukuaki’i he ngaahi faiongoongo ‘oe ngalu’ea, ‘initaneti, nusipepa pea moe televisone

    DPF, do I expect a knock on my door from the cops?

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  15. Alan Wilkinson (1,838 comments) says:

    “But there are better ways to lobby for a more open court system than by putting at risk the future of a teenage girl.”

    Where is there a jot of evidence teenagers are put at risk by bringing their sexual abuse into the open? There is heaps of evidence that keeping it secret has long term bad effects. This statement is utter crap.

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  16. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,810 comments) says:

    Triprewryter, see my comment at 10.24. Meng Yee used the phrase ‘national figure’ which is the dead give away. You see, this fellow is not a ‘national figure’ by any stretch but once was a National figure.

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  17. malcolm (2,000 comments) says:

    Well said, Big Bruv.

    I think Cameron wasn’t clear in his mind about his reasons and principles behind this campaign (except perhaps the self-promotion bit). He’s making it up on the fly and some of his reasons are self-contradicting. E.g. he feels sorry for the MPs who are under a cloud of suspicions, so decides that the young girl is out of luck in terms of privacy, although a week ago it was obvious to him that the name should be suppressed for her privacy. And if he’s feels sorry for the other MPs, then that’s an argument for calling the media to task for publishing details which narrowed it down to an ex-MP living in Nelson, not for outing the man and the girl.

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  18. PaulL (5,961 comments) says:

    Interesting. The three blogs in NZ that are must read are DPF (enough said), Russell Brown (token attempt to point to a left blog worth reading) and WhaleOil (included only so it makes it sound like Whaleoil is more important than he is). I don’t think whale has ever been a must read – he’s usually inhabited the fringes.

    Next, on Whale’s campaign. Name suppression was already under review, the government were progressing some work started by the last government. What is Whale seeking to achieve that wasn’t already happening? Yes, he’s getting lots of personal publicity, and he is probably going to end up with a conviction. But will anything be achieved – will him doing this change the course that the government was already on? And if it will change that course, will it change it for the better?

    To be honest, I think Whale is off the deep end on this one – his heart’s in the right place, but his methods just don’t make sense.

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  19. Dave Mann (1,183 comments) says:

    @Alan Wilkinson, yes you are 100% correct I think and

    @Pascal, yes you are right too, to a huge degree. This whole name suppression has a massive sensationalist value which just keeps the pot boiling as everybody tries to guess names.

    Also, I cannot for the life of me understand the following two vital points:

    1) If the ‘Justice System’ was really serious about suppressing an accused’s identity, why limit it to NAME suppression? Why not suppress ALL details (occupation, former occupation etc) that might identify them? Why not ONLY allow the gender (and age?) to be published? “In the District Court a man, 53, was charged with sexual violation. he will appear…. blah blah… etc… Where is the problem with THIS for fuck’s sake?

    2) I don’t agree with this bullshit about the VICTIM in all cases (see Alan Wilkinson’s comment)…. but if it IS so bloody VITAL, the why not suppress all the DETAILS about the victim? The court could even suppress the GENDER of the victim if that makes everybody feel cosier and more secure in their collective victimhood.

    Call me thick – but I can’t understand what the bloody problem is here. And call me bigoted – but I suspect it has something to do with the bloodsucking parasitic legal profession (but I might be wrong here :-))

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  20. J Mex (184 comments) says:

    Cam Slater’s M.O has always been one of dropping inside information and salacious tidbits – Whether Trevor Mallard is having an affair, what Darren Hughes gets up to after a few drinks, Marital problems with the National Party president etc etc.

    What’s more likely – That ‘Whaleoil’ suddenly developed a moral compass and became a legal system crusader for name suppression? or ‘Whaleoil’ continues to dish the salacious dirt for fame and website hits?

    Slater can’t even keep a consistent line on why he did what he did (or whether he even intended to do what he did). Some moral crusader.

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