Yesterday, the Law Commission of New Zealand released a discussion paper entitled Suppressing Names and Evidence
that seeks to encourage public discussion of sections of the country's Criminal Justice Act 1985
that allow for exceptions to the open courts principle:
"The principle of public access to the courts is an essential element of our system of justice. The principle requires, as a general rule, that the courts conduct their business publicly unless this would result in injustice. Open justice has been regarded as an important safeguard against judicial bias, unfairness and incompetence, ensuring that judges are accountable in the performance of their judicial duties (...)"
"But the principle of open justice is not absolute. There are exceptions to it, which result from an even more fundamental principle that the chief object of courts of justice must be to secure that justice is done. Situations sometimes arise in which doing justice in public would frustrate justice itself. In Scott v Scott, the House of Lords stated that it was generally for Parliament and not the courts to determine the exceptions to the open justice principle, but exceptions have in fact been developed by both the courts and the legislature (...)"
"The question of suppression is of particular interest to members of the media, who have expressed concern about a number of matters, including a perceived increase in the use of suppression orders (in District Courts in particular), problems in getting access to the terms of suppression orders, and in the way those orders are sometimes framed, and inconsistencies in media standing to challenge orders. In recent months, the way in which the Internet affects suppression orders has also been the subject of some high-profile decisions. The aim of this Issues Paper is to elicit comment and submission as to whether the suppression provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1985 are appropriate: do they impinge too far on the principle of open justice, or do they not offer enough protection when risks to the interests of justice arise?"
Labels: courts, criminal law, evidence, government_New_Zealand, law commissions