Automatic suppression orders imposed on proceedings involving people accused of sex offences will be a thing of the past, under laws which passed State Parliament yesterday.
Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman welcomed passage of the laws through Parliament, saying it would increase transparency and support the public’s right to know who had been accused of serious sexual offending.
“South Australia is one of the few jurisdictions that still automatically imposes a suppression order when an individual accused of a sex offence first appears before the courts,” Ms Chapman said.
“A defendant’s identity is not automatically suppressed for any other type of offence, and this provision effectively stymies the public right to know who has been charged with offences that may very well be relevant to the broader community.
“This change will bring South Australia in line with most other states and territories, which allow for publication of the identity of an accused once they appear before the courts, providing that identifying the accused does not risk identifying the alleged victim.
“The Government has kept the prohibition against any publication that identifies a complainant or invites an inference as to their identity, unless the individual is an adult and wants to identify themselves. An added protection in this regard is a requirement that police make all reasonable efforts to inform victims that defendants’ names can be published after the first court appearance, so that victims can be prepared for that.”
Attorney-General Chapman said the courts would still be able to consider applications for a suppression order when there are other factors at play – such as ongoing investigations.
“Under the current laws, a suppression order is in place until a person accused of a sex offence is either found guilty or pleads guilty, or is committed to trial in a superior court,” Ms Chapman said.
“I’m pleased to see broad support for measures that will help strengthen the public’s right to know, and victims’ choice to be heard.”
“While I accept that suppression orders are a useful tool within our justice system, particularly to protect victims, I am pleased to see the number of suppressions imposed across the South Australian courts decline - showing greater openness in our justice system.
“As Attorney-General, and certainly in my time in Opposition, I have always been an advocate for a justice system which is as open and transparent as possible. The Liberal Party have long pushed for openness in suppression orders since the Martin Review years ago.
Keeping the law and our policies current and relevant is a key priority within South Australia’s Justice Agenda, which can be found here: https://www.agd.sa.gov.au/sites/default/files/1852_justicestrategydocument_v20.pdf