SUPPRESSION ORDER OVERHAUL UNDERWAY

The Andrews Labor Government is overhauling Victorian suppression order laws to make it clear that suppression and closed court orders are exceptions to the principle of open justice and should only be made when necessary.

The Open Courts and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2018 will be introduced in to Parliament today and will reinforce the presumption in favour of open justice and the disclosure of information in Victorian courts.

The Bill is the first stage of the Labor Government’s response to recommendations made by former Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Frank Vincent following his independent review of the Open Courts Act 2013.

Under the proposed laws, courts will not be permitted to make suppression orders under the Open Courts Act 2013 if other legislation already exists prohibiting publication of the same information.

Courts will also be required to give reasons outlining the grounds upon which a suppression order was made, its duration, and the scope of information to be covered by it.

Victims of sexual and family violence offences will also be empowered to share their stories under a new process enabling courts to make an order lifting bans on publishing a victim’s identity.

Under the new process, a court can order that victims’ identities may be published if they are aged 18, provide their consent, and if there are no other reasons why the information should not be published.

Existing laws preventing the publication of prior youth convictions will also be amended to allow the County and Supreme Courts to publish relevant convictions in the sentencing remarks of adult offenders.

Under the amendments, judges will be able to publish a person’s juvenile convictions if they are sufficiently similar to the offences for which they are being sentenced as an adult.

In considering whether to allow publication of juvenile convictions, judges must take into account the person’s criminal history, chances of rehabilitation and must be sentencing the adult for a serious offence.

The Bill implements in full or in part seven of the 14 legislative recommendations made by Justice Vincent. Another four recommendations are being progressed separately.

A further legislative recommendation was already implemented earlier this year, and work is currently underway to address the remaining 10 recommendations.

Quotes attributable to Attorney-General Martin Pakula

“We’re overhauling the law to make it clear that suppression and closed court orders are exceptions to the principle of open justice and should only be made when absolutely necessary.”

“We’re also making it easier for victims to share their stories by adopting a new process allowing publication of information with their consent.”

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