Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Name suppression of ex.MP

The internet has made this entire case a bit of a game. Cameron Slater's post is skirting on the edge of the law, though he explains part of his view on name suppression here. Some have taken to assuming the ex. MP charged of a sexual offence represented this or that electorate, or is in this or that party. It doesn't helop that the New Zealand Herald said "former MP from the top of the South Island" although appearing in the Nelson District Court indicated that anyway.

Ken Shirley has incorrectly been mentioned too often in relation to this, and continuing to name people without any basis for it other than pure speculation is quite unfair. Of course, the list of possible MPs (which if you include all top of the South Island electorates and list MPs) is not great, so it puts a handful under suspicion, although no doubt their family and friends can vouch for them all, bar one.

Of course, given the internet the answer was bound to turn up, and it really wasn't rocket science to figure it out. One very well known and popular website effectively names the accused indirectly. It isn't the only place mentioning it (and no I'm not going to say).

The purpose of name suppression is primarily to protect victims or relatives of the accused. That is entirely fair and reasonable. How this is addressed when the internet is extra-territorial, and allows people to post elsewhere is difficult, as I suspect thousands now know the name and it is being mentioned in person, by phone and even by the foolish by email.

So in effect name suppression has value only in delaying not preventing circulation of names, and in the case of the unknown is likely to be effective. So the question is why should anyone, who has a public profile, be protected from the same sort of scrutiny anyone else might have? Well they should not, people should be treated on a similar basis - and if name suppression is to protect the victim, then it may not be abused like it has been in this case. If it is to protect the accused, then the question has to be asked why?

However, equally disconcerting is that other former MPs from who are nothing to do with this case are having their reputations put under the spotlight because of speculation. Similarly, if there is truth in the alleged offences, then concern should also be for the victim.

It is also fair to note that until the man concerned is convicted, he should be treated as innocent until proven guilty. However, this sort of thing should not be a game. If found guilty, then the name should be released, only if it is not detrimental to the victim. It is quite possible this whole case is very very messy given all those involved.

I am not allowing comments, for fairly obvious reasons.