Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Does name suppression actually help abusers make excuses?

Putting aside for a moment the personality pushing to get rid of name suppression, his tactics, his sincerity, etc, I thought this blog might be a useful place to have a bit of a discussion about the core point of what is now an actual campaign.

It's being called SHAME (Suppression Helps Abusers Make Excuses) and its main proponent is advocating no name suppression for those accused, and suppression of the names of victims and the nature of their relationship to the accused. (It's unclear to me whether the intention is to cover name suppression in all cases, or just those which involve crimes of abuse.)

The following are stated as SHAME's reasons for wanting to end name suppression:
  • ...often sex offenders who [get] name suppression ... also have court orders preventing them or restricting them from approaching children, areas where children are located like schools and playgrounds... As the public has no right to know who these people are how then are we to know that the fellow over there by the playground is in fact a convicted or accused kiddy-fiddler and is not allowed to be there. The police surely can’t monitor the person 24/7. Because of name suppression he can happily stalk children with no-one having the ability to wander over and suggest perhaps he might like to go elsewhere lest the authorities be informed of his breach of bail or parole conditions.
  • People are n’t interested in the lurid details of the victim they are interested in the names of offenders. If something becomes a secret then people want to know that secret. Open-ness is the only solution.
  • There is significant New Zealand and overseas research that says that by naming the offender it is likely to bring more victims forward enabling a slam dunk prosecution.
This is cribbed from a number of different posts at the SHAME site.

Reading between the lines of a couple of other posts I have also discerned that other arguments from SHAME may be:
  • Naming the accused means others in the same profession, demographic, etc are not unfairly suspected
  • To give people the right to criticise socially harmful behaviour
We've had some discussions here recently about the nature of secrets, and how keeping secrets about abuse can advantage abusers. And Maia pointed out "Political arguments about rape must never be made if you have to tread on victims of abuse to do so." Personally I think you could address most of the issues SHAME has pointed out with a less prurient approach by the media and still maintain name suppression for the accused.

So trying, honestly and objectively, to put aside the nitty gritty of SHAME's campaign and the person behind it, does name suppression actually help abusers to make excuses?

And how would you like our name suppression laws to be changed, if at all?


Boganette said...

The decision as to whether someone should be named or not if found guilty of abuse should come down to whether the victim wants them named or not.


Psychotic vigilantes shouldn't get to decide which victims get "outed" according to how much they want to know about a case in order to settle their morbid curiosity.

It's sick. I almost misread the line "People are n’t interested in the lurid details of the victim" as "people aren't insterested in the victims". How I read it seems far more accurate when it comes to SHAME and their motives. - in my opinion.

sue said...

victims should be 100% protected becuase sometimes victims of sexual abuse don't even think they are and the case only make it to court due to police intervention.

And people do want to know who the victim is, if it's a high profile case, woman's day, new idea, close up they all want to get a good 15 minutes of the story, to make money.

in this information rich society protecting victims names is even more important. Who wants to apply for a job knowing a simple internet search will show that you were a victim of sexual abuse 20 years ago.
Why should that be how you life is define forever.

so if protecting the victim gives the accused name suppression, well so be it.

i like boganette's idea, which is putting choice in the hands of the victim, giving them control

Hugh said...

The main problem with giving the victim control is that they may make a choice they later come to regret, having taken some time after the trial to process things.

So perhaps if this was adopted a victim who opted to allow for name suppression should be given the chance to review that decision at certain intervals.

It'd be nice if a victim who opted to forbid name suppression could later renege but of course that isn't really possible. Still, the principle works.

Julie said...

Thanks for the feedback so far.

As Hugh points out, name suppression is one of those things you can't put back in the box once it's out. And I think for me that is a big part of supporting the continuation of name suppression in general (although I'm open to some ideas around improvements). To get rid of it full stop would be counter-productive.

I think there are probably really two cases in recent history that have led to a lot of the frustration that people feel around name suppression.

One is the very recent situation with a well known entertainer who has permanent name suppression despite pleading guilty and there being no issue about identifying him outting the victim inadvertently (in fact she has been in the media about it herself, so her identity is not suppressed). This was a judicial decision and does seem to me very unfair; a genuine example of celebrity justice in fact.

The other is the bevvy of cases around Clint Rickards, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton. We've written here before about the ongoing ramifications that those cases have had on NZ society so I don't want to rehash all that again, but I think I heard a metaphorical scream of injustice when the general public discovered, after they were acquitted in the Louise Nicholas case, that some of them were already in prison for a similar crime. Suppression in that case, particularly against the treatment of Louise Nicholas by the defence, seemed unjust too.

But those cases are not really representative of most where name suppression occurs. In fact in many of the cases that have faced breaches in recent months the suppression is not judge-imposed by imposed by law automatically, and for good reasons based around protecting the victim.

Hugh said...

Point of order, Julie.

It's my understanding that the decision not to reveal the prior convictions of the people involved in the Louise Nichols case, while obviously raising many of the same issues, was not connected to name suppression law and was not, technically, a name suppression issue. A person who has their name suppressed can still have their identity revealed within a courtroom; conversely a person who hasn't had their name suppressed can have their identity concealed within a courtroom (although obviously its effectiveness would be limited - although not necessarily as limited as these high-public-interest cases might imply).

So, again, while many of the same issues are raised, a change to name suppression law would not necessarily have changed the decisions made in the Louise Nichols case.

Julie said...

That's a fair call Hugh, and I realised as I was writing it that while in the actual Louise Nicholas case there wasn't actual name suppression, the previous trial, the Mt Maunganui rape case, did suppress the names of Shipton and Schollum after conviction (can't remember if the others remained suppressed after conviction, don't think so?) So I think that it, and the suppression of the convictions, is still relevant.

ms p said...

Given the recent hideous media treatment of women who have accused high-profile sportmen of rape, I've been thinking that pre-trial name suppression for both victims and those accused should be automatic to prevent that kind of witch hunt.