Restrictions on publication

While Magistrates’ Court hearings are generally open to the public and may be reported in full, in some cases it may be necessary for the presiding judicial officer to make orders limiting the access of the public and the media to a court, or to material that is put before the court. This is to ensure hearings are conducted according to law and without disruption, and that the interests of justice are served.Suppression orders under the Open Courts Act 2013

Suppression orders (and orders for their revocation) in all Victorian jurisdictions are recorded on a central database managed by staff within each jurisdiction. Media organisations, including in-house counsel and legal representatives, are sent scanned copies of all suppression orders and revocations by a dedicated email distribution service.

If you wish to be included on the email list, please contact media@magistratescourt.vic.gov.au or phone 03 9032 0919.

Proceeding suppression orders

Section 17 of the Open Courts Act provides the Magistrates’ Court with a statutory power to make proceeding suppression orders that prohibit or restrict the disclosure of:

  • a report of the whole or any part of a proceeding
  • or any information derived from a proceeding. 

Broad suppression orders

The Open Courts Act makes qualified provision for the Magistrates’ Court to make broad suppression orders. Section 28(1) empowers the court to make orders prohibiting the publication of any specified material, or any material of a specified kind, relevant to a proceeding that is pending in the court.

Closed court orders

Section 30(1) of the Open Courts Act provides the Magistrates’ Court with a statutory power to:

  • order that the whole or any part of a proceeding be heard in closed court
  • order that only persons or classes of persons specified by it may be present during the whole or any part of a proceeding.

Notice of application for suppression order

When a relevant party wishes to apply for a suppression order, they must give three business days’ notice to the court and the parties to the proceeding in accordance with section 10 of the Act. This notice must be filed with the court using the Notice of application for suppression order form.

The registrar will issue the notice (and list it for a hearing date). The applicant must then provide the notice to the other relevant parties as directed by the Act. The court will take all reasonable steps to notify the relevant news organisations of the application and when it is listed. This notice will be provided electronically, to the nominated email addresses of the relevant news media organisations.

Application to review a suppression order

A party or any person pursuant to section 15(1)(b) of the Open Courts Act can seek a review of a suppression order. This application must be filed with the Court using the Application to review a suppression order form. The registrar will issue the application and list it for a hearing date suitable to the court.

Other relevant legislation

There are a number of provisions in other legislation that prohibit certain publication.  Journalists should particularly be aware of section 4(1A) of the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958, which provides:

  • A person who publishes or causes to be published any matter that contains any particulars likely to lead to the identification of a person against whom a sexual offence, or an offence where the conduct constituting it consists wholly or partly of taking part, or attempting to take part, in an act of sexual penetration as defined in section 35 of the Crimes Act 1958, is alleged to have been committed is guilty of an offence, whether or not a proceeding in respect of the alleged offence is pending in a court.