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Shielding victims: Erring on side of transparency

June 12. 2018 8:36PM

An advisory committee tasked with recommending whether to change New Hampshire court rules regarding the identity of victims has done the right thing.

By a vote of 8-6, the committee is recommending that the New Hampshire Supreme Court reject a proposal to redact the names of all crime victims from all documents filed with and issued by the court.

The court already has procedures to shield the names of crime victims when warranted, and judges make that determination on a case by case basis. But victims’ advocates were pushing to erase all such names.

That would draw a veil over the justice system, which should strive to be as transparent as possible.

Courts must deliver justice to victims, and to society as a whole. For that to happen, the public needs to be able to know what is going on. Putting a blanket ban on the names of all victims runs contrary to the fundamental principle of an open court.

The rules change would not apply to trial or appellate courts, so it would not do much to ensure anonymity or encourage victims to report crimes to the police. It would provide an unnecessary impediment to the public’s right to know.

We encourage the Supreme Court to follow the recommendation of its advisory committee, and maintain the current system of shielding victims’ identities only when a judge determines that step to be necessary.

Courts State Government Editorial

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