A well-known Auckland businessman charged with breaching a court suppression order for the man who murdered Grace Millane has pleaded not guilty.

Leo Molloy, 63, appeared today in the Auckland District Court after being accused of flouting a suppression order relating to the British backpacker's killer, the Herald first reported last month.

Molloy, until today, had interim name suppression.

He pleaded not guilty through his counsel, David Jones QC, and will appear in court again in May.

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Auckland businessman Leo Molloy is accused of breaching suppression in the Grace Millane case. Photo / Michael Craig
Auckland businessman Leo Molloy is accused of breaching suppression in the Grace Millane case. Photo / Michael Craig

The well-known restaurateur, who owns HeadQuarters in the Viaduct, is the first person to be charged by New Zealand police after numerous suppression breaches before and after last November's high-profile trial.

Others have been given warnings by police for allegedly naming the killer.

Court documents viewed by the Herald show Molloy allegedly breached the suppression order on November 22.

It was the same day a jury found a now 28-year-old man guilty of murdering Millane after a nearly month-long trial in the High Court at Auckland.

Further court documents available today, however, also allege Molloy "did knowingly publish the names in breach of suppression orders" on November 29.

Molloy, who was typically well-dressed and wore sunglasses while sitting in the courtroom, declined to comment about the allegations and dismissed reporters after his appearance today.

When the Herald phoned him after he was charged Molloy said: "I've got no interest in talking about it. I've got no interest in talking to you, you clearly have no idea what's going on. So the answer is no, no, no, no."

Meanwhile, Millane's murderer, who continues to have name suppression, will be sentenced later this month.

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The trial's presiding judge, Justice Simon Moore, said after the verdict that the killer's name would remain suppressed "until further order of the court".

The reasons for the order and the legal arguments made by both the Crown and defence have also been suppressed.

Despite the suppression order, in the hours and days after the verdict overseas media and social media users - including in New Zealand - published the killer's name.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard, the police officer in charge of the case, also warned Kiwis about breaching suppression orders relating to the case the day after the guilty verdict.

"While we appreciate the public feeling around this case, we do want to remind the public that it is an offence to breach a court order such as a name suppression - this includes naming someone on social media," he said.

While breaking a suppression order is not an extraditable offence for those who do so overseas, people in New Zealand who are guilty face up to six months' imprisonment or a $25,000 fine.

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In the case of a company breaching, a fine of up to $100,000 can be imposed.

READ MORE:
Auckland man accused of breaching suppression in Grace Millane murder case gets suppression himself
Grace Millane case: First person charged with suppression breach for backpacker's killer
Several legal reasons Grace Millane's killer continues to have name suppression
Grace Millane murder trial: 5 key questions the jury had to answer
Jury returns guilty verdict and brings justice to backpacker's family

The recent breaches, largely by those here and the United Kingdom, come after a year of debate about the effectiveness of New Zealand's suppression orders in the internet age.

After Millane's killer first appeared in court in December 2018, British media named him in its papers, online and on-air.

Grace Millane's killer will return to court on February 21 to be sentenced. Photo / Michael Craig
Grace Millane's killer will return to court on February 21 to be sentenced. Photo / Michael Craig

Internet behemoth Google breached a suppression order when it named Millane's then accused murderer in its "what's trending in New Zealand" mass email to New Zealand subscribers.

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

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The Google breach was met with condemnation by Justice Minister Andrew Little, who held a meeting with Attorney-General David Parker and executives from the Silicon Valley-based company.

In July last year, Google suspended its trending emails in New Zealand and apologised to Little.

After the murder trial, Little said the breaches were "really disappointing" but was optimistic changes to the way court suppression orders were enforced were on the way.