NSW to review suppression order laws

Concerns about access to court records: NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman.
Concerns about access to court records: NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman.

The NSW government has ordered a review into laws preventing details about some court cases and criminals being made public.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman on Friday confirmed he has asked the Law Reform Commission to consider whether laws around suppression and non-publication had the "balance right".

"There are reports about difficulties getting access to court records in criminal matters and that concerns me - and that probably concerns judicial officers," he told reporters in Sydney.

"If there have to be restrictions on access to documents, (we want to make sure) they are exceptional circumstances that justify that rather than the norm."

The review will consider how far non-publication orders should extend - including whether they should apply online and how - and the fact they can only be enforced in NSW while other jurisdictions are free to report on the matter.

Mr Speakman said it was a "relatively small issue" in terms of the number of cases affected but raised an important matter of principle.

Meanwhile, the chief judge of the NSW District Court on Friday raised the issue after a middle-aged man pleaded not guilty to raping an eight-year-old girl multiple times in the late 1980s.

Justice Derek Price said the court has been "heavily criticised" for non-publication orders on the name of alleged offenders and was reluctant to automatically continue the order for the accused.

"It is of great public interest at this time," he told the court.

The man's lawyer argued the order was applied because the man was under 18 at the time of the alleged offences but Justice Price requested further advice.

Australian Associated Press