OPINION: Why we name and shame people who appear in court
A DRIVER slams head on into another vehicle after veering onto the wrong side of a highway.
He injures a seven-year-old child and admits he was using marijuana before driving and wasn’t looking at the road.
Despite this, he gets away with just a suspended licence and $900 fine.
Like many of you reading this, I found this case shocking as I sat in court listening to the proceedings.
But if it were not for my being at the courthouse on that day, the public would likely have never known about the case.
This is why we cover court – to shine a light on the justice system.
A police officer remarked to me at the courthouse that day “the biggest deterrent around here is people not wanting their names in the paper”.
We don’t cover court to be vindictive, or because we’re nasty people.
We cover court because without the public knowing what happens in court, both offenders and the justice system avoid scrutiny.
The law is the law – breaking it is a crime. It doesn’t matter if you disagree with the law or if it was a simple mistake.
The public has a right to know when a crime is committed and we have a responsibility to inform them of this.
Our road toll is staggering and, despite constant pleas from police, the government and community, idiots are still getting behind the wheel, drunk, high and distracted.
Since Gatton Star journalists regularly started attending court last year, the numbers of drink driving, drug driving, driving with a suspended licence or without one at all we have written has been maddening.
The attitudes of many of the perpetrators in court is even worse.
There are even offenders who have the nerve to approach us and demand we not print stories about them.
They don’t seem to understand, maybe they just don’t care, that their actions not only put themselves at risk, but other road users are also at risk of serious injury or even death – including the journalist they are harassing.
Often, they’re more concerned about their image or future job prospects than crime the brought them before a judge.
So here’s some advice: don’t want your name in paper for appearing in court?
Don’t end up in court. Simple.