13 Dec 2018

Grace Millane case: Suppression breaches could endanger trial

3:29 pm on 13 December 2018

Top lawyers fear the trial of the man accused of murdering Grace Millane may be stopped from going ahead because people continue to breach name suppression orders.

Grace Millane

Grace Millane Photo: Supplied / Facebook

The 26-year-old man - who has interim name suppression - was charged this week with murdering the 22-year-old British backpacker.

The New Zealand Bar Association says the man must be given a fair trial.

President Kate Davenport QC and vice-president Jonathan Eaton QC are calling on those who are breaching the orders to stop doing so.

Mr Eaton said those breaching suppression orders could not only endanger a fair trial but "potentially any future trial at all".

"There is an alarming trend in the reporting and hearing of information of this case that could open the way to defence counsel arguing that the accused could not get a fair trial," Mr Eaton said.

"It is, for example, entirely inappropriate for media organisations and individuals to say where people can find information about the accused.

"The publicity about the accused undermines the prospect of finding an impartial jury."

It is a criminal offence to breach a suppression order and is punishable by up to six months in prison.

Mr Eaton said members of the public on naming the accused on social media were also liable.

"It is a criminal offence to breach a suppression order.

"It is punishable by up to six months imprisonment. Those who are breaching or helping others to breach or circumvent the court order are not helping, and as the Minister of Justice commented, an aborted trial will only add to the grief of the Millane family."

He added that comments that the District Court Judge should not have ordered interim name suppression are "entirely wrong".

"Judges are bound by the law as much as anyone else."

Meanwhile, a shovel that was being sought by police in relation to the investigation has been found.

In a statement, police said it was "located and seized in the central west Auckland area".

It was found "as a result of the continued examination of CCTV footage".