Secret suppression order
11 May 2003 - Sunday Sun
A COURT order suppressing details of allegations that Governor-General Peter Hollingworth raped a woman almost 30 years ago was kept secret from the public.
It emerged this week Dr Hollingworth's name was suppressed in an order made in secret in a closed hearing of the Victorian Supreme Court on March 18.. The suppression order was ultimately made public only because Labor MP Lindsay Tanner raised the issue in Federal Parliament.
The first official notification of the suppression order came last Wednesday in a document from the court to the media but it did not detail the parties involved.
Legal sources say Dr Hollingworth's lawyers were permitted to make a further secret application on Thursday, almost two hours before a public hearing at which it was revealed the suppression order was lifted. Before the lifting of the order, Dr Hollingworth released a video-taped statement denying the allegations.
Media lawyer and Corrs Chambers Westgarth senior associate Adrian Anderson said the secrecy surrounding the suppression order was insidious.
"A fundamental point of court procedure in a democratic society is that the courts operate in an open and transparent way," he said.
"The public and the media are entitled to see what's going on.
"A court should only be closed in exceptional circumstances."
Mr Anderson said holding suppression hearings in secret was a dangerous precedent.
"It is a basic requirement of our system of open justice that the public and the media are informed of suppression orders so they have an opportunity to oppose them and scrutinise the basis for the orders being made," he said..
"If a suppression order is made in secret there is no opportunity for scrutiny and this is a dangerous threat to the fundamental principle of open justice."
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