Name suppression comes in two flavours: temporary and permanent. Temporary name suppression can last for as little as 48 hours, or for the length of a trial. Permanent name suppression is much harder to get, and is generally only given in cases where revealing the accused’s name might also identify the victim.
Name suppression keeps the media from publishing details about those involved, breaches of which are punishable by a fine of up to $100,000.
The media tend to give an implicit sense that this kind of name suppression is given out too freely, but in fact the number of suppression orders given in New Zealand has been steadily declining in recent years.
Public figures (and their family members) are sometimes given name suppression in cases where the public’s reaction might have a disproportionate effect on their career, over and above the intention of the punishment handed down by the court. This is a valid concern, but also raises issues of public interest, especially in cases where the accused is in a position of power.
One of the assumptions that we make in the justice system is that an open court is better than a closed one: justice shouldn't be something that takes place away from the public gaze. This keeps justice fair by holding the courts accountable to the public for their decisions, and helps to keep the public safe by letting them know who among them has committed crimes. It’s also part of the penalty: the shame of being convicted and punished is a lot less meaningful, we assume, if it’s kept a secret.
Name suppression turns that assumption on its head: although we are still allowed to publish details of the court case, the key details of who is involved are obscured, either temporarily or permanently.
This has some advantages over more normal operation: if the ‘naming and shaming’ of offenders is to be a part of the punishment, it shouldn't begin before conviction, when the accused remains innocent until proven otherwise. The number of people potentially wrongfully affected by this punishment is not small: of all of the cases made in court in 2013, for example, just over a quarter (that’s 62,495 cases) did not result in a conviction.
This has significant ramifications. Many people will remember charges but not the outcome.
So in either protecting victims of crime, or attempting to stop injustice, protection orders do have an important role. There remains a lingering concern, though, that those of privilege gain greater advantage than those who aren't. But that’s hardly a unique concern within the criminal justice system.