Privileged Name Suppression Furore, Sensible Sentencing Trust Comments

The uproar over the decision to grant permanent name suppression to a ‘prominent’ man convicted of downloading and distributing indecent images of young girls continued today with a statement from the Sensible Sentencing Trust. Garth McVicar says the judgment has undermined public confidence in the NZ justice system and that it puts criminals ahead of victims. This from Voxy

“Garth McVicar, spokesman for the Sensible Sentencing Trust, has been inundated with outraged inquiries from members of the public asking what can be done about the name suppression and why the offender received special treatment because of his profile in the community and his job, which has also been kept private.

If someone chooses to commit a crime and is caught, then their job, social standing and any consequent fall from grace should be irrelevant. Our judges are protecting the privileged and giving them special treatment and it is totally undermining public confidence in the justice system,” said Mr McVicar.

In a bid to highlight the impact of such biased sentencing and identity protection, Mr McVicar was releasing one of the messages he had received from a member of the public who had trusted the man and believed others deserved to know about his behaviour and the risk he posed to the community:

This sentence was made against a person with whom I entrusted my health I am in shock at this sentence and find it offensive that the judge seems to be more sympathetic to the offender and his loss more than he is the victim. This judge is also a judge for the family court and makes decisions regarding safety and care of children also“.

Mr McVicar said the decision was another example of a liberal-leaning judge putting the criminal ahead of the victims and community safety and protecting the upper echelons of society, who should know better.

Judges are appointed to protect the public from predatory and criminal behaviour, not to protect the dignity and reputation of well-heeled businessmen. How far a person falls from grace as a result of their crimes should not matter. If a person does the crime they should do the time and not get special treatment.”

It is fast becoming evident that NZ may have a two tier justice system.

The editor of the Manawatu Standard has said his piece saying too saying “Open justice gets thrown aside”

OPINION: If there were any lingering doubts that the guidelines for suppressing names in this country needed strengthening, the case detailed in today’s Manawatu Standard should shatter them.

The creeping secrecy pervading our justice system has long since passed what the public should accept as a reasonable restriction on their freedom of expression in order to safeguard the administration of justice.

The decision to suppress the name of a prominent Manawatu man convicted of downloading pornographic images of children is a salient example of how the principle of open justice has been reduced to little more than a passing mention before a judge abdicates his or her duty to ensure our public court system belongs to the people.

Judge Grant Fraser’s reasons for banning publication of this man’s name and occupation are breathtaking in their flimsiness, placing too much weight on the interests of the offender, and too little on the interests of the public.

For Judge Fraser to say publication of the man’s identity was not required because none of the thousands of children pictured were New Zealanders is logically outrageous. Such an argument requires one to believe this man investigated the background of each of his young victims to determine they were not from this country. Does Judge Fraser believe that had the man known the children were New Zealanders he would have not downloaded the images?

But what was most alarming about Judge Fraser’s decision was his view that the offender’s status in society should afford him special protection from publicity.

Judge Fraser said: “The punitive consequences are more extensive for you than for others, particularly in light of your position, your achievements and the consequential outcome.”
It is this statement, above all others, that exposes the judge’s decision not only as poor, but as an insult to the central tenet of justice that it applies to everyone equally.

Publicly revealing an offender’s name will have different consequences for individuals depending on their life situation. It is not for the courts to attempt to manipulate those consequences to make them equal for everyone. It might sound paradoxical, but justice isn’t always fair.

Those who hold a high social status must accept that with it comes greater scrutiny when they behave in a manner unbecoming that status. There cannot be one set of rules for them, and another for everyone else.

The Law Commission has recommended the Government raises the threshold for name suppression and sets clearer guidelines on how it should be applied.

What happened in the Palmerston North District Court yesterday might not have exposed the identity of a sexual deviant, but it has revealed how important it is for the Government to adopt those recommendations.”

Yet the government sits on its hands as case after case drags the New Zealand judicial system further into the mire. One has to question why this is being allowed to happen, is the government powerless to stop it?

Today’s posts – click here