|Cameron Slater looking confident outside the Auckland District Court today|
Controversial blogger Cameron Slater (of whaleoil.gotcha.co.nz), is on trial today facing multiple charges of breaching name suppression orders.
Earlier in the year Mr Slater published suggestive images and encrypted posts on his site revealing the identities of suppressed defendants in high profile cases. Those identified include a former MP, a well known entertainer and a former Olympian.
Slater is known to be a staunch opponent of New Zealand's suppression laws and founded the anti-suppression group 'S.H.A.M.E' (Suppression Helps Abusers Make Excuses) with the purpose of making presentations to parliament to change our laws for more openness in our court system and advocating for better protection for victims.
The underlying consensus among anti-suppression supporters is that the New Zealand legal system favours offenders. Particularly when the offender is well-known with a reputation to uphold.
Not so long ago name suppression at any stage of a court proceeding was uncommon. The courts were more open to the media believing that they should operate in public and their activities should be freely reported on. Now, almost by habit, judges grant name suppression with little or no justification.
Perhaps the media have closed the doors on themselves by abusing the privilege in the past, or bringing the legal system into disrepute. But there is nothing defamatory about simply naming a defendant in a court case. It is only if they are found guilty of their crime that their name is tainted, and then it is only right for them to be held accountable for their actions.
Protecting defendants rights is a very kiwi 'PC' thing to do. We cling tightly to the notion of 'innocent until proven guilty' and celebrate the freedom of once convicted killer David Bain due to 'inconclusive' evidence.
However, the ones who deserve protection, and our patriotism are the victims of crime. Name suppression, whether automatic or requested, should not be withheld from victims. They are entitled to a normal life outside of the public eye. Cameron Slater proposes we "change the law to better tighten up protection for the victims".
It is convicted offenders that should be held liable for their crime. They do not deserve anonymity or to slip back into society like nothing ever happened. The retributive justice of crime is that the offender lives with the consequences of their actions, and it is the role of the courts to uphold this.
Cameron Slater will be defending his charges on the grounds that a blog is an online public forum. It is conversational, therefore the human right of freedom of speech applies.
As the issue of name suppression is blown out in the open it will be interesting to see where our justice systems' loyalties lie.