Do the crime, nameless in time: The media and name suppression.

post by Anonymous

Name suppression seems to be something that is offered easily to offenders, despite political opinion, and something that becomes far more damaging to victims than the offence itself. This blogpost will sit from the stance of victims who are silenced and who are not given closure to heal through the name suppression of their perpetrator. It will not look at victims who are granted name suppression themselves.

The factors that influence the likelihood of someone being granted name suppression include:

  • The safety of the identity of the victim
  • Any prejudice towards an unfair trial
  • The security and privacy of the NZ law and defence

The one I struggle with is

Whilst this makes sense when children and innocent family members are involved, I do struggle with how much we protect people who have committed serious offences. Victims often have to repeat their stories multiple times and are thrown into the public eye, whilst the defendant remains as an unseen, unknown and rarely heard element. Interestingly on the NZ Law page we see how name suppression is used to protect the victim and their identity (Surrey, 2016). However, if the victim is against name suppression, should we be allowing it to exist in their case. What if the victim wants the identity of the offender known, no matter if it obviously identifies who they are as well? The offender identity will likely to be known through social media regardless (Barnfield, 2011).

In 2011 there were reports of new laws and regulations surrounding name suppression and people’s eligibility (Sachdeva, 2016) however we can see from victim experiences that these may not be as strict as proposed (Leask, 2018). What we are looking at is not whether name suppression is easy for offenders to get, but whether victims interests should be used as a reason for getting it. Those with a status in society are often granted name suppression and for a very long time. For example an entertainer, doctor or other actors are unknown defendants which can anger not only the victim but also the families and the public.

Some opinions are expressed below on public status and name suppression; however the majority does sit with support . However, in one particular case involving a 16 year old victim and a 71 year old defendant who has no public status, he is still under name suppression This can be very difficult for victims as it does not allow full closure (of the whole experience and it also does not allow for public safety (Leask, 2018). In one survivor’s  words:

“He gets to keep name suppression, isn’t justice about keeping the community safe? How can you do a crime and your name just be kept under the rug? It’s not fair,” she said.

“The whole intention of doing this, and the whole last two years of my life and all the stress has been, I just wanted to stand up and say ‘it’s not ok, I’m not going to let you get away with this.

“I did it for the community, so people would know what he did. “It’s just not right.”

(from Leask 2018)

What I would like to see is the space for victim voices in the administrative side of trials and name suppression, rather than the usual heavy focus on their stories in court. Survivors of crimes can have a very powerful position in their case if they fight for the removal of their offenders name suppression, and for a lot of people can be a means of healing. Name suppression should be granted for extreme circumstances but I do not believe that a ‘celebrity’ status warrants this, instead it glorifies public figures for doing wrong things.

References

Barnfield, D. (2011). ‘Effectiveness of Suppression Orders’ in the Face of Social Media. Bulletin (Law Society of South Australia), 33(4), 16.

Leask, A. (2018, January 20). Swept under the rug: Victim angry over sex offender’s name suppression. Retrieved May 7, 2018, from https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11976833

Sachdeva, S. (2016, April 28). Explainer: How are our current name suppression laws working? Retrieved May 7, 2018, from https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/79371385/Explainer-How-are-our-current-name-suppression-laws-working

Surrey, T. (2016, November 30). Why is There Name Suppression in Court? Retrieved May 7, 2018, from

https://nzlaw.co.nz/news/why-is-there-name-suppression-in-court/Your Views: Should the top sportsman get name suppression? (2007, April 10). Retrieved May 15, 2018, from https://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10430018

 

 

Author: socialworknz

I'm a social work researcher in Aotearoa New Zealand

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