Friday, March 31, 2006

Name Supression

How do we feel about name suppression?

Name suppression seems to rest on a couple of principles
1) protection of the victim - often detains of the case including the names of people involved might be suppressed in order to prevent further harm that society might do to the victim, for example a young child who was a victim of rape might not want everyone including those at school to know that - this might require the guilty party to also be anonymous.
2) Protection of the accused - the accused might be in a job where they will suffer considerable additional harm if people are aware of the fact that they might be guilty. Suppression could preserve the possibility if they are found not guilty, of them returning to their old life.

One could say both of these assume the public is unreasonable - that is that they will shun people who are not dangerous to them and punish those who probably are not guilty. Are we unreasonable? If you knew an accused murderer would you give him the benefit of the doubt? Or possibly weigh up his likelihood of guilt based on the evidence? Or just assume guilt? Would you have a right to know to be wary?

3) Protect the jury from emotive but not relevant evidence
In this case we might hide from a jury the fact that a murderer was also a child abuser or something similar because a judge deems it to be irrelevant and highly likely to influence the jury.
The problem here is that it has as a basic assumption that the jury is very poor at making decisions. You can’t avoid the jury being exposed to irrelevant information and yet you accept it misleads them. Even to the point where you might hide vaguely relevant information because it is highly prejudicial - and more generally - are previous convictions relevant?

Should we trust the jury to be able to consider relevant information and ignore irrelevant information even when that information is highly emotive and prone to evoke prejudice?

Under what grounds should it automatically be lifted?
no grounds? if another case requires the information?


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