OnPoint by Keith Ng

Legal Beagle (update)

PA reader Bruce Thorpe asks why, when a suppression order is in place to prevent prejudicing a trial, it would remain afterwards.

When do suppression orders get lifted?

Generally there aren't suppression orders at all. The jury is simply told not to read any stories in the newspapers.

If for some reason information about inadmissible evidence is suppressed (be it a confession or whatever), the suppression would generally end following the verdict.

Why would suppression orders be continued after trials?

There are a number of possible reasons, but basically only two that actually stand up to scrutiny.

Suppression orders restrict free speech, and whilst District Court Judges, or High Court Justices might like to grant them to save an accused (even an acquitted one) or their family from publicity, or adverse effects on business etc., the only ones that the Court of Appeal are likely to uphold on appeal are protection of the victim and prejudice to judicial process.

Example of the former: man accused of sexually abusing his child. If the name of the defendant is released, people will be able to work out who the victim is and it will be more difficult for them to get on with their life.

Example of the latter: someone is convicted of murder, their name and identifying details are suppressed because they are going on trial later for another crime (perhaps also murder, but not necessarily). If this information was made public, potential jurors in the second trial might find out about the conviction (or even an acquittal) and it might make it difficult for them to receive a fair trial.

In deciding the line between the rights of an accused to privacy etc. and open justice/free speech the Court of Appeal will invariably side with free speech - open justice is more important. But if the right to a fair trial is involved, it's considered more important than free speech.