Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Party de-identification in court decisions

As a general statement, one of the key principles of the court system in Australia is that of open justice. The vast majority of cases are held in an open court, and the decisions when released, provide a full factual background and detailed analysis of the relevant legal issues.

This said, the principles of open justice do not automatically require the publication of the identity of the parties involved.

Particularly where the court believes that an individual involved in the case would be impacted on adversely in terms of their privacy and dignity, their personal details are often de-identified when the decision of the case is released.

The three primary techniques used in this regard are:

a. referring to the parties by reference to initials;

b. referring to the case simply by reference to a number; and

c. particularly in family court cases, a protocol is often adopted where the first initial of the parties’ names is used and the same number of letters are also used, however an entirely new word is created. For example, a case involving a party named 'Burgess' may instead be referred to as the case of 'Boseman'.

Image credit: Jack cc