In which our intrepid hero decides freedom of speech and honest decency require - require, no less - him to tell the world the identity of a 13-year old alleged victim of sexual assault.
It's hard to know what to do about Cameron Slater (aka "Whaleoil"). If you ignore him, don't you simply let him get away with acting like a complete and utter tool? But if you pay attention to his actions, don't you help feed the psuedo-messianic delusions that drive them? So here's an attempt at a middle road: one final posting on his "No More Name Suppression!" jihad, but without any links to his blogsite. If you want to see first hand what he's been up to, visit Google. Beyond this, I'll let the police decide how much, and what form of, attention Mr Slater should get.
A quick recap. Mr Slater doesn't like name suppression being given by the courts to those accused of crimes. Fair enough - there's a number of people uncomfortable with the extent and consistency of this practice, which is why the Law Commission has issued a lengthy and considered report calling for a range of legislative changes in the area.
However, Mr Slater isn't prepared to allow the process of legislative reform take its course. You see, he already knows what needs done, and knows that he is just the person to bring about these needed changes. So he's started "outing" the names of individuals where these have been suppressed by the courts, on the basis that people want to know them and so he'll tell them. And anyway, why should criminal scum get to hide from the righteous wrath of the mobilised mob?
How very noble. Unfortunately, in two of the three cases Mr Slater has chosen, the name suppression orders were handed out not to save the accused from any embarrasment, but rather to protect the identity of victims of alleged sexual offending. So what Mr Slater has done is decide that he knows better than anyone else that the world's "right to know" trumps the privacy of these victims. And when I say "anyone else", I mean the elected Parliament of New Zealand, which decided such protective orders for victims of sexual offending should be all but mandatory. As well as the victims themselves, who can always ask the judge to lift the order if they want the world to know the accused's identity (and thus theirs). As well as the judge who gets to hear considered argument from both sides, and make an informed decision on whether to make an order after taking the full range of factors into account.
But why should the opinions or beliefs of such minnows be of interest to a mighty Whale? Unfortunately, this then raises a rather tricky question: just who is this Mr Slater to be making judgment calls on which names to out and which not to? I don't want to get overly personal here, but this is how one of his friends, Cathy Odgers of the "Cactus Kate" blog, describes Mr Slater:
He is mental. I mean this in a loving caring way to his friends, but to his foe he shows as much hatred as he does love for his friends. Whaleoil loves opposition, he loves conflict and more importantly will never back down. ... His actions are consistent with a mix of depression, medication and frontal lobe disfunction. There is no point in reasoning with him for after his depression and the medication he is on, there is limited reasoning.
David Farrar of Kiwiblog fully concurs with this description. And note again that these are his friends speaking here.
Now, I get what they are saying. Mental illness often causes individuals to act in ways that are poorly reasoned and ill advisable, and that helps to explain why Mr Slater has chosen the path he has. But desn't this explanation for his actions raise serious problems with their desirability? If Mr Slater is "mental", to use Ms Odger's chosen term, and possesses only limited reasoning skills, then do we really want him taking it upon himself to second guess the entire legal process with regard to whose name will remain suppressed and whose will not? Is that a basis we can found our justice system on - the rules will be those that the person most prepared to push the envelope decides ought to be in place, even if that envelope pushing is the result of seriously disordered thinking?
I think not. So, with all due respect to Mr Slater and his enablers in the blogosphere, I fervently hope the police and courts come down on his actions like a ton of bricks. And there I'll leave the matter to rest.
Update: Anyone interested in a full, considered and temperate discussion of the issues involved in name suppression and Mr Slater's actions should read Steven Price's blog posting here.