What’s in a name? A history of New Zealand’s unique name suppression laws and their impact on press freedom

  • Francine Tyler Massey University (Wellington)
Keywords: court reporting, contempt of court, crime reporting, fair trial rights, media law, name suppression, New Zealand, press freedom, privacy, open justice

Abstract

The principle of open justice, including the media’s right to attend and report on criminal courts, must be balanced with the protection of individuals’ privacy and an accused person’s fair trial rights. Prohibiting media from identifying those involved in criminal cases is one way privacy and fair trial rights may be protected in New Zealand. Court news was not always restricted in this way: 115 years ago all parts of criminal court proceedings could be reported and media decided what information was censored. In 1905, New Zealand judges were given the power to suppress court evidence to protect public morality, and 15 years later, the power to suppress the names of certain first offenders to give them a second chance. The laws now stretch to suppressing many kinds of evidence and the identities of some people accused and convicted of New Zealand’s most serious crimes. Investigation of the 115-year-long evolution of New Zealand’s name suppression laws illuminates a piecemeal, but severe, curtailment of media freedom and a trend of imposition of increasingly complex laws which journalists must keep abreast of, understand and observe to prevent appearing before the courts themselves.

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References

Hansard

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Evidence Amendment Act (No. 2) 1985.

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Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Amendment Act 1997.

Judicial Proceedings (regulations of reports) Bill 1935.

Juvenile Offenders Act 1906.

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Newspapers

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A man’s iniquity (1905, May 18). Lyttelton Times, p. 7.

Attack on the press (1937, April 5). New Zealand Herald, p. 8.

Auckland Star (1921, March 24). Auckland Star, p. 4.

Day by day (1924, May 30). Waikato Times, p. 6.

Editorial (1921, January 4). Press, p. 6.

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Grossly indecent act (1923, October 22). Poverty Bay Herald, p. 5.

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Judicial proceedings (1934, July 7). Otago Daily Times, p. 12.

Local and General (1921a, February 2). Evening Post, p. 6.

Local and General (1921b, May 3). Evening Post, p. 6.

Local and General (1929, September 9). Evening Post. p. 4.

Not for publication (1920, December 21). Sun, p. 7.

NZ move to suppress accused’s name (1975, April 24). Canberra Times, p. 2.

Quite pardonable difference (1925, November 28). NZ Truth, p. 3.

The courts today (1920, November 24). Evening Star, p. 7.

The Criminal Code Amendment Bill (1905, July 1). Lyttelton Times, p. 4.

The ‘hush-hush’ policy (1920, October 27). Wairarapa Daily Times, p. 4

Very inadvisable (1920, October 22). New Zealand Times, p. 4.

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PJR
Published
31-07-2020
How to Cite
TylerF. (2020). What’s in a name? A history of New Zealand’s unique name suppression laws and their impact on press freedom. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 26(1), 279-293. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v26i1.1093
Section
Articles (Unthemed)