A close family friend of Grace Millane is so concerned ongoing suppression breaches could jeopardise a trial she has written to London's major newspapers asking them to refrain from naming the man accused of murdering the British backpacker.

And the papers have explained why they defied the Auckland judge's order.

The Telegraph and the Daily Mail were two of several British media organisations to name the 26-year-old New Zealand man charged with Millane's murder, days after she arrived in Auckland as part of a one-year solo OE.

READ MORE:
Grace Millane murder: The detectives leading the charge for justice

Advertisement

The defendant had applied for interim name suppression when he appeared in the Auckland District Court for his first appearance on Monday.

Despite Judge Evangelos Thomas refusing to grant the application, the man's lawyer, Ian Brookie, indicated he would appeal the decision to the High Court - invoking an automatic 20-working-day suppression order.

However, since then there have been breaches by overseas media, hundreds of social media users and Google.

Now there is an explanation.

The woman, who is close to the Millane family, contacted the Telegraph and Daily Mail with her concerns about naming the man and jeopardising the judicial process.

The broadsheet's editorial compliance executive Sian White replied but said "the law in New Zealand does not apply".

"Whist the Telegraph takes into consideration the laws of other countries when it comes to naming suspects/those charged with a crime and the names of victims of crimes we should stress that the law in New Zealand does not apply to our reporting," White said.

"In this case, in conjunction where the individual in question has been arrested, charged, pictured and is shortly to be named in the court process, we chose in those circumstances to name him."

Advertisement
Grace Millane's body is being returned home to England. Photo / Supplied
Grace Millane's body is being returned home to England. Photo / Supplied

A similar concern was raised with the Daily Mail, to which editorial assistant Emma Stanworth replied.

"At the outset, I can assure you that we take laws of allied nation's courts very seriously," she said.

"In this particular instance, the suspect requested anonymity from the judge, which was denied, and subsequently appealed by the defendant. We of course understand that, while the appeal is under way, we should not name the suspect in New Zealand. As this is the case, prior to publication of this article, we ensured that New Zealand was geo-blocked from viewing this article. This means that those in New Zealand are unable to access the article."

The complainant told the Herald: "All of us just want a fair trial for Grace."

Justice Minister Andrew Little said in an interview with the Herald if the original breach to the British press was traced to someone who was in New Zealand at the time then they can be prosecuted.

"I'm not quite sure how much time the police want to expend trying to track who that might be," he said.

"Certainly, technically, there is somebody in New Zealand who is responsible for breaching the suppression orders who could be called to account if there is a willingness to do so."

Prosecutions for those breaching Judge Thomas' order have also not been ruled out, with police telling the Herald they are monitoring the ongoing breaches.

A spokeswoman for the Solicitor-General's office said it prosecutes contempt of court.

Judge Evangelos Thomas' interim suppression order to allow the defendant's appeal has been flouted online. Photo / Michael Craig
Judge Evangelos Thomas' interim suppression order to allow the defendant's appeal has been flouted online. Photo / Michael Craig

The Kiwi legal community has also raised fears the continuous publication of the 26-year-old's name and details may have already compromised a potential trial.

"The publicity about the accused undermines the prospect of finding an impartial jury," New Zealand Bar Association vice-president Jonathan Eaton QC said.

His comments came after tech giant Google sent its "what's trending in New Zealand" mass email to New Zealand subscribers naming the accused.

The email also said there had been more than 100,000 searches on its search engine of the man's name.

"We respect New Zealand law and understand the concerns around what is clearly a sensitive case," A Google spokesperson said when contacted by the Herald.

"When we receive valid court orders, including suppression orders, we review and respond appropriately. In this case, we didn't receive an order to take action."

Millane had landed in New Zealand 10 days before her death and was travelling around the North Island before settling in Auckland for a visit.

Her body has been returned to her family and they are in the process of taking her home to Essex in England.