HOW, and how often, courts issue suppression orders will more more rigorously scrutinised with the introduction of new laws.
The Government has introduced legislation to give Commonwealth courts clearer powers on suppression orders and vexatious litigants.
“There has been growing concern about the volume and breadth of suppression orders made by some Australian courts and while the concerns have been directed at state courts, it is important this issue be addressed nationally,” Attorney General Robert McClelland said.
“This Bill provides a clearer approach to the granting of suppression orders, which puts front and centre the fundamental importance of the open justice principle.”
The Access to Justice (Federal Jurisdiction) Amendment Bill 2011 sets out in greater detail how suppression orders should be made, and emphasises that courts must consider the public interest in open justice before making a suppression order.
The Bill is based on the model suppression order law developed by the former Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in 2010.
This Bill has been amended from the model law so that it does not broaden the grounds on which suppression orders can be made from those that currently apply.
“I welcomed the opportunity to further discuss the model law at last week’s meeting of the Standing Council on Law and Justice, where it was decided that Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia would further consider the model law.
“I am confident that these reforms will assist courts to appropriately craft suppression orders, so that they are only made when they are clearly justified, and in as narrow terms as necessary to achieve their purpose, recognising the important rule that open justice plays in upholding the rule of law,” said McClelland.
The Bill will also improve the powers available for the federal courts to deal with vexatious litigants.
“Unfortunately courts can be caught up with proceedings that are vexatious in nature and take away time from other litigants,” he said.
“This Bill provides a clearer process for dealing with repeat vexatious litigants to minimise their impact on the court system, while protecting their right to initiate worthwhile legal action.”
The Bill will also clarify and reinforcethe Federal Court’s powers to control the discovery process during litigation to prevent excessive costs being incurred, in response to recommendations made by the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report Managing Discovery.
The Bill will also allow the Administrative Appeals Tribunal more flexibility in the payment of application fees in Tribunal proceedings, and remove the limits that prevent Family Law Magistrates in Western Australia hearing family law property matters worth over a certain amount.
“Greater transparency and efficiency in court and tribunal proceedings is important in ensuring fair and equitable access to justice,” said McClelland.