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A question

a man suspected of lighting fires in Victoriia, but NOT the man currently facing charges

A man suspected of lighting fires in Victoria, but NOT the man currently facing charges

One of the more curious things about the arrest of a suspected arsonist and his being charged yesterday is that the man has had his name suppressed by a Victorian court, but because of the jurisdictional issues such a ban only applies in Victoria.

Jeremy Sear over at his blog posted the note below as an update to his latest post

UPDATE: Some irresponsible online sites have named the suspect. This is a serious contempt of court – amongst other things, seriously complicating things for prosecutors – and any commenter who tries that here will be permanently banned.

source

But I just had to wonder what it means to make such an order in the internet age?

Re your Update The suppression order is silly and essentially unenforceable, up here (in Queensland ) we got to see pictures of the suspect and his name so my question to you is just how can a Victorian court hope to enforce any kind of ban on disclosing the suspects identity in media that is essentially global? It is farce to think that such a ban means anything.

Now because he is a practising barrister in Victoria as well as a blogger I can understand why Jeremy is personally concerned. But I am neither a resident of Victoria nor is my blog “published” there.

Could I be charged with contempt if I were to publish the man’s details here in my blog which is written  here in Queensland on a server in the United States? Or if I were to “hot link”  to a picture of the suspect on a UK paper’s website or publish the digital images I took of the suspects image from the news reports here last night?

Is  there any point of suppressing a suspects name in Victoria in the age of the internet? Such an order is essentially unenforceable and any law or court order that is unenforceable is a bad application of law.

It is an interesting ethical  and legal question that I wish I had an answer too.

Cheers Comrades

8)

PS please don’t name the suspect in any comments  because this is about a point of ethics and law and not who the accused actually is 😉 I won’t ban anyone for doing so but I will edit out the accused man’s name


13 Comments

  1. David Davidson says:

    As far as I was aware, the only way to ensure that the suppression order was valid all over the country, was if it was applied for and granted by the Federal Court ?
    The granting of the order in Victoria, means absolutely squat in Qld, SA or anywhere else in the world. Internet the same, as technically, the internet can be classed as homeless/stateless.

    Although Iain, me thinks that for his legal team, successfully having his name suppressed, is somehow going to be the least of his problems ?

  2. JM says:

    Ahh, well Iain I’m reading your blog in Victoria and I’m currently on the jury list (for the first time in 20 years) so I suppose I’m now influenced by your posting.

    Are you really as safe as you assume?

  3. Iain Hall says:

    JM
    the issue is not my safety from prosecution because I have written this post very carefully to avoid any possibility of that. My post is about the absolute impossibility that such a suppression order will actually work. and the secondary issue is what right does a Victorian state court have to make orders that apply to people outside their jurisdiction? the fact that you may live in Victoria and that you can read my blog from there is nothing to do with me.

  4. Legal Eagle says:

    The question of jurisdiction and the Internet is a very difficult one.

    The Joe Gutnick defamation case comes to mind – the defamatory material was published on a server in the US by a US company, but Gutnick was able to sue in Victoria because the damage to his reputation occurred in Victoria.

    Using the same principles, it could be argued that contempt has occurred in the jurisdictions concerned because the sites could be viewed within those jurisdictions. But how would the magistrate enforce it? It could be very difficult – a bit like plugging a million holes in a very leaky ship.

    I would implore those who want to name this guy to think very carefully about it. It’s understandable to be angry at somebody who is accused of such a terrible act. But our legal system says that this guy is innocent until proven guilty. By assuming this guy’s guilt without knowing all the evidence, they may cause his trial to be derailed, as the defence barristers will be able to argue that he has been unfairly prejudiced before the trial even began. Do they really want to make it very difficult to prosecute this guy? Seems to me that they need to think carefully about it.

  5. Nic says:

    Iain,

    What do you make of Jeremy’s repeated posts on this subject? Quite often they seem to combine inappropriate satire with contempt for the theory that the suspected arsonists had anything to do with the results of the fires. Why do you think he keeps persisting in his posts?

  6. Iain Hall says:

    Welcome to my blog Nic
    I think that he feels as deeply about this issue, just like the rest of us and he thinks that satire is a good way to approach the topic in a round about way.
    I personally think that being straight up and serious is actually better, in terms of both taste and respect for the victims but each to their own way of speaking about such matters while the issue is still so raw..

  7. Nic says:

    Thanks Iain, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now.

  8. Iain Hall says:

    Well glad to see you coming out of lurk mode then Nic 🙂

  9. Sam The Dog says:

    Re: defamatory material. The place of publication is held to be the place where the material is read. Ergo, if a blog is read in Victoria, the material was published in Victoria.

    Jurisdictional issues are essentially thanks to our outmoded (in many respects) constitution. I would be the first to agree with you that it needs an overhaul in order to remedy quirks such as this.

  10. David Davidson says:

    JM

    As part of Victoria’s Jury Pool. and being the “fly-right”, “stand-up” honest citizen you are, I am certain, that if you were picked for the jury in this case, you would judge the case ON IT’S MERITS rather than on raw emotion ?

  11. David Davidson says:

    By the way, it’s all academic now anyway.

    On the news, on the island tonight, they named the guy

  12. Naming the accused in this case in no way prevents him from getting a fair trial. The intention of the original order was to protect the accused and his family, that’s all. It was a stupid supression order that was always going to be overturned because, as the Judge has now conceded, the word was out in the jails anyway. Storm in a teacup and no one’s rights have been impinged. He’ll get a fair trial, there’s no doubt about that. Jeremy just had a ‘hissy fit’.

  13. […] the suppression order was lifted, Iain Hall was wondering how enforceable it was against Internet publications. Meanwhile, after the […]

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