A prominent criminal barrister says defence lawyers are not "victim shaming" and those calling for legislative changes in the wake of the Grace Millane murder trial are "ludicrous".
After a 27-year-old man was found guilty and convicted of Millane's murder on Friday evening several people have offered opinions about the efforts of the killer's legal team to "blame and shame" Millane for her sexual preferences.
Some have even gone as far as to call for legislative changes to prevent such evidence being used in future case.
While there was no debate during the trial about why the British backpacker died on the eve of her 22nd birthday last December - pressure to her neck - there was a contest as to how it happened.
The defence used expert evidence and those who knew Millane to argue it was an accidental death during consensual erotic asphyxiation.
The killer, whom Millane met through the dating app Tinder, then "freaked out" and lied to police in a desperate attempt to cover up her death by dumping her body in the Waitākere Ranges, lead defence counsel Ian Brookie told the jury.
But the prosecutors, led by Auckland's Crown Solicitor Brian Dickey, said: "You can't consent to your own murder."
He said the killer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, strangled Millane to death in his downtown Auckland hotel room and then took "trophy" photos of her body "because of his morbid sexual interest".
Marie Dyhrberg QC, who has been involved in some of New Zealand's biggest criminal trials, said the circumstances of Millane's death and the defence's claims were unique but important.
"It would be rare that you were going to get something like that again," she told the Herald.
The evidence about Millane's sexual interests were relevant facts and important for the jury to hear and understand, she continued.
"I think that the public needed to know, they needed to understand what the argument was, the outcome and the verdict and that you had some understanding of it."
She said the killer's legal team, which included Ron Mansfield and Claire Farquhar, were not victim blaming or shaming.
"We're not victim shaming, it's really relevant - it's what she liked to do," Dyhrberg said of Millane's interests in BDSM themes.
"It was really relevant. It was good for the public to know that."
During the defence's opening address, Mansfield said: "I want to be very clear that no one is trying to shame Ms Millane or her family and no one is trying to blame Ms Millane and her family."
He said Millane was a "loving, bright, engaging, intelligent and well-liked woman".
"That is her reputation and that should be her reputation and memory at the start of this trial and at the conclusion of it."
Dyhrberg said defence lawyers do not make submissions and call evidence about a person's sexual history "willy-nilly".
Counsel, she explained, must first seek and obtaining the leave - or permission - of the judge who will determine if the evidence is materially relevant to the jury.
"It's gone crazy since the verdict of course," Dyhrberg said of the opinions on social and mainstream media since the trial concluded.
"People [are] calling for all sorts of legislative changes, which is ludicrous ... You need fundamental fair trial rights for someone who's accused.
"People want to get on the bandwagon and they're talking outside their area of expertise, they have no idea, no idea," Dyhrberg said of non-criminal lawyers offering opinions about the trial.
Despite criticism of the media's coverage of the trial, Dyhrberg said it was also important the press were able to fully report the evidence from the Millane case to help people understand how New Zealand's criminal justice system operates.
"I think, in this case, the publication of the trial itself was actually published in quite a responsible way," she said.
The Millane family themselves had thanked the press contingent in court for their "truthfully, respectfully" reporting.
However, high-profile cases in the media, Dyhrberg said, also tend to generate a public frenzy as emotions run high over an alleged crime.
"It's almost like there's a competition for who gets the best headline," she said.
"I had the Kahui [double murder] case some years ago and we know the dreadful publicity that [the twins mother] Macsyna King got, terrible pre-trial, and she never would have got a fair trial."
Speaking generally about "courtroom myths" and public misconceptions about defence lawyers, Dyhrberg said the defendant is the central figure in any criminal proceeding.
"Because it's the defendant that stands to lose everything," she said.
"It's all very well to say 'if they've done the crime then what about the victim' but the defendant will suffer a great deal if there is a false conviction. A person will know, 'hey, I haven't done this, I'm not guilty of this crime' but the consequences of being incarcerated for many years and being labelled is devastating."
Dyhrberg said people too easily forget the presumption of innocence, which "so easily gets eroded away".
"Yet that's the core, the very core, of what our legal justice system is.
"Once you've lost that then you have really lost a system that you can say is working for justice."
Dyhrberg also warned of "knee-jerk legislative change" after a particularly brutal or high-profile offence.
The Sexual Violence Legislation bill, which is expected to become law early next year, was something "that takes away judicial discretion", Dyhrberg commented.
"Once you start making something mandatory and take away judicial discretion it's a slippery slope."
The bill seeks to improve the court experience for complainants, who have described it as retraumatising, hostile, and a compelling factor in deterring victims from coming forward to police.
The prospective law will see a woman's sexual history or how she dresses deemed out of bounds.
"What is so special about a sex trial?" Dyhrberg asked. "What is so different about that trial versus an assault case or a homicide? Why are we looking and saying we have to have new rules?
"The reason is in these cases there is a presumption of guilt and you have to preserve your innocence."