It is the first push to end ­secrecy in the courts in more than eight years since the Court Information Act.
It is the first push to end ­secrecy in the courts in more than eight years since the Court Information Act.

NSW’s most ­not­orious killers could finally be named

EXCLUSIVE: Some of the state's most ­not­orious killers, who were jailed as juveniles, could finally be named under long-overdue reforms announced by Attorney-General Mark Speakman.

Increasing court secrecy and record numbers of gag ­orders will also be examined as part of a review into open justice which has been handed to the NSW Law Reform Commission by Mr Speakman.

The move follows a campaign by The Daily Telegraph which called for child offenders, including the gang who raped and murdered bride-to-be Janine Balding in 1988 and the man accused of killing little Cheryl Grimmer in 1970, to be named now they are adults.

Mr Speakman said there was a public interest in open justice. He has said part of the motivation for this review were "concerns" he had about the sweeping suppression orders which covered the trial of ­George Pell in the Victorian County Court.

 

Cheryl Grimmer disappeared from a Fairy Meadow beach near Wollongong in 1970.
Cheryl Grimmer disappeared from a Fairy Meadow beach near Wollongong in 1970.

 

Another key area of contention to be examined is the law that prohibits the identification of children and young people involved in court cases, even if they are dead. It means the perpetrators, if they are ­related to the victims, can hide behind the secrecy and never be named. The public cannot hear the full details.

It is the first push to end ­secrecy in the courts in more than eight years since the Court Information Act, which would have forced judges to throw open proceedings ­except in exceptional circumstances, was passed by state parliament in 2010. The act was never implemented.

They are also the first proposed reforms since the explosion of social media.

Mr Speakman said it was important decisions to restrict information be justified.

"Justice should not only be done and, unless there's good reason, should be seen to be done," he said.

"Restrictions on publication may be necessary in sensitive cases, such as sexual assault proceedings, or where there is a risk that traumatised young victims might be identified.

"The Open Justice Review will determine whether our laws strike the right balance between protecting the rights of victims and witnesses, privacy, confidentiality and the public interest in open justice."

It will also look at giving the media wider access to witness statements and other documents, which are routinely ­restricted, and statements of facts tendered in local courts when defendants apply for bail.

The Daily Telegraph ­revealed that last year courts suppressed a record amount of evidence with 185 suppression orders compared to 97 in 2011.

Janine Balding was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered in Minchinbury in 1988 by street kids. Picture: A Current Affair
Janine Balding was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered in Minchinbury in 1988 by street kids. Picture: A Current Affair