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Suppression orders valid

Briefs

Cite as: December 2015 89 (12) LIJ, p.15

The LIV and Chief Justice Marilyn Warren have highlighted the crucial role suppression orders play in the justice system after concerns were raised about their scope and prevalence.

LIV president Katie Miller said the vast majority of court proceedings were free to be reported but that suppression orders were at times necessary for the proper administration of justice.

Ms Miller said valid reasons for the existence of suppression orders included ensuring the safety of witnesses and the identity of sexual assault victims.

She said it was rare for an entire court proceeding to be suppressed and that the Open Courts Act, which came into effect in December 2013 had further improved transparency in the justice system.

Ms Miller was responding to a media report that found Victorian judges and magistrates had issued at least 383 suppression orders, plus almost 50 interim orders since the Act’s introduction.

The report highlighted the frequency in which administration of justice was cited as a reason for a suppression order and raised concerns about a broader interpretation of what that means, for example, suppressing embarrassing details in order not to deter a witness from giving evidence.

Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, in response to the report, said suppression orders were often used to protect people, including witnesses, victims and informants and usually only delayed publication until proceedings were finalised rather than prohibit media reporting altogether.

Chief Justice Warren said to suggest that suppression orders were given without a valid reason undermined confidence in, and respect for, the judiciary.

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