Changes afoot for Vic suppression orders

Christine McGinn

Adult victims of sexual and family violence will be able to choose to have their names published in a bid to empower survivors to share their stories, under proposed legislative changes in Victoria.

The state government tabled an amended bill in parliament on Tuesday to ensure suppression and closed court orders are an exception rather than a rule and only made when necessary, to allow open justice and disclosure of information.

The changes would mean a victim's identity could also be published if they are aged at least 18, give consent, and there's no other reason not to publish such information.

Courts would not be able to make suppression orders under the Open Courts Act 2013 if other legislation exists prohibiting publication of the same material.

Also the reasons for making a suppression order, its duration and the scope of information to be covered would need to be provided by the court.

Victoria's County and Supreme courts could also publish an offender's prior youth convictions in sentencing remarks "if they are sufficiently similar to the offences for which they are being sentenced as an adult", the government states.

But judges must take into account the person's criminal history and chances of rehabilitation and the adult offender must be facing sentence for a serious offence.

"We're overhauling the law to make it clear suppression and closed court orders are exceptions to the principle of open justice and should only be made when absolutely necessary," Attorney-General Martin Pakula said.

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

It is part of the government's response to former Supreme Court of Appeal judge Frank Vincent's 14 recommendations after his independent review of the act.