Suppression orders are infringing too far on open justice. New
research from Victoria highlights some pretty scary
trends. Suppression orders are often too broad, lack
appropriate end points, are unclear in their terms, beyond the
scope of the court's powers, and made without sufficient
explanation of their necessity.
Here's an example. A few weeks ago a Victorian court
reportedly prohibited the publication of "any detail
or particular" of an alleged offence other than the time and
place it occurred. Noble purpose; protecting the victim. But still
a fail by the court. The orders were made when the charges were
being dropped. The names of the accused, the offence with which
they were charged and the age of the victim had already been widely
Given the absurdly wide-reaching order after the event, most of
the media seemed to decide that precise details of the how the
offence occurred were suppressed, but not the offence itself, the
names of the accused or the age of the victim. The confusion has to
be a result of the breadth of the order and the history of
Suppression is supposed to be a last resort. We start with open
justice. Open doors to our court rooms and open access to
information about proceedings. The idea is that what happens in a
courtroom must be subject to public scrutiny. This prevents abuses
of the court system and maintains public confidence in the
judiciary. Open justice should only be compromised in the most
Here's what we think needs to happen.
First, there should be an open justice advocate. A lot of
applications for suppression orders are unopposed. News media
organisations have standing to oppose them, which is fair. But it
shouldn't be left to private entities with their own commercial
concerns to look after all of us. Judges should be assisted by an
advocate contradicting any proposed order.
Next, the courts making these orders need to be more
accountable. They should publish reasons for making every
suppression order. If information is withheld from the public,
contrary to open justice, then we should at least know it's
happening and why it's necessary.
These aren't novel ideas. We're not the first ones to
say these things. But the government's not listening. These
subtle erosions of accountability and free speech are sinister and
deserve a voice.
 Jason Bosland, "Two Years of
Suppression Under the Open Courts Act 2013 (Vic)" (2017) 39
Syd LR 25.
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