Should there be an audit of legacy suppression orders?

17.5 The consultation paper noted that the data about legacy suppression orders is incomplete and not readily available. Stakeholders were not able to precisely identify the number of legacy suppression orders in operation.[1483]

17.6 The Supreme Court of Victoria and the County Court of Victoria submitted it would require substantial resources to identify and review existing legacy suppression orders.[1484]

17.7 The Commercial Bar Association Media Law Section Working Group supported an audit. In its view, this would be the most efficient way to identify legacy suppression orders.[1485]

17.8 As discussed in Chapter 15, the Supreme Court is creating a new database of suppression orders made across Victorian courts. The Court noted that, during the transfer of data from the previous database to the new database, there would be scope to review whether the orders had expired, been revoked or varied. However, this would require adequate resourcing.[1486]

17.9 The Supreme Court submitted that a ‘substantive review’ of legacy orders would require ‘much more substantial resources’.[1487] The Supreme Court noted that orders made prior to the Open Courts Act do not necessarily record the basis on which they were made, and it would be ‘a significant logistical exercise’ to retrieve this information from files and transcript where available. The Supreme Court stated it was unclear how those with an interest in the review of an order could make submissions.

17.10 As noted in Chapter 15, the County Court supported establishing an independent body to monitor breaches of orders restricting publication. The County Court told the Commission this body could also audit and review legacy suppression orders.[1488]

Commission’s conclusions: conduct an audit of legacy suppression orders

17.11 Uncertainty about the number of legacy suppression orders in operation in Victoria and their content undermines the rule of law and freedom of expression. The current project of establishing a new suppression order database provides an ideal remedy. Such an audit will need to be resourced adequately.

17.12 The Commission therefore recommends the Victorian Government provide funding to the courts to undertake a comprehensive audit of legacy suppression orders. Such an audit would improve the outcomes of the current project to establish a new suppression order database. Ideally, the audit would allow legacy suppression orders to be searchable alongside the suppression orders under the Open Courts Act.

Recommendation

132 The courts should be resourced by the Victorian Government to conduct an audit of all existing legacy suppression orders.


  1. Submissions 18 (Commercial Bar Association Media Law Section Working Group), 20 (Criminal Bar Association), 27 (Australia’s Right to Know coalition), 31 (County Court of Victoria).

  2. Submissions 29 (Supreme Court of Victoria), 31 (County Court of Victoria).

  3. Submission18 (Commercial Bar Association Media Law Section Working Group).

  4. Submission 29 (Supreme Court of Victoria).

  5. Ibid.

  6. Consultation 24 (County Court of Victoria).

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