What's the point of suppressing names in news stories...

…in cases where all a person’s friends and colleagues know who they are?

Inspired by this story of a barrister becoming a police informant, which is all over the local newspapers today.

Now, I don’t know what this woman’s name is. But clearly all the high profile and interlinked criminals she’s represented over the past couple of decades do. Given that the very same articles that scrupulously avoid mentioning her name also give masses of identifying details of her career, including specific cases that she worked on, I’d lay high odds that every lawyer in the city also knows, or could find out with one phone call, and that all her friends and family do too.

So - in a case like this, is there an actual point served by allowing every detail of a person’s situation to come up except their name? Or is it just a type of security theatre?

because this person is not a friend or colleague of everyone?

Having enough information leak out into the public eye is not the same has having a court order suppressing information vanish. You can be sure the lawyer has had her name suppressed by court order for years. That won’t go away now that the story is leaking out. It might be that a newspaper makes an application to the court to have the order dropped - if they can show that it would somehow be in the public interest. Just saying “but everyone who matters already knows” won’t get you much sympathy. Or it may have a time-out period on it. But until it is legally dropped, publishing her name would end any paper in a world of legal hurt.

The main reason we see here in Oz for names being suppressed is where there is a need to prevent vulnerable victims from being identified. So child molesters have their names suppressed until convicted, largely to prevent people working out who the victims are.

What matters about this particular story is of course that lawyer/client privilege was breached, and there is a lot of handwringing that the convictions are unsafe. It is altogether a very strange story.

Without knowing the full details of the case, it’s hard to quantify.
Often time the description given can match several people. So while there might be suspicions cast a persons way, interested people can’t be sure. And that helps. Going after one snitch is different then going after 10. Also, reports will sometimes misrepresent certain things.

Many years ago, there was a corruption case where a several people were ensnared due to information from a socialite who had a sexual relationships with many of them. This description could have fit several people. I advised the prosecution and as it so happens, I know the identity. Recently, a person told me that by looking at publicly available information, he had deduced who it was. And told me. He was wrong.

Actually, it’s even weirder than I thought. I googled around for about 15 minutes, and I’m as sure as I can be that I now know the name of the lawyer involved - it’s on court documents for all the people that the current stories claim her to have been the lawyer for, and there’s only one name that possibly ‘fits’

There are a bunch of stories dating back to 2011 about her turning informant on one particular ‘gangland’ (crooked cop, actually) client of hers - wearing a wire after (allegedly) having been acting as his legal counsel … all the stuff that is causing such angst right here and now. There was an ongoing saga about her being supposed to give evidence, then pulling out, then sueing the police for not adequately protecting her as a witness. It seems to have been a bit of a saga going on for a number of years

All of these stories have the lawyer’s real name and photograph appearing prominently and frequently.