Auckland businessman charged with suppression breach in Grace Millane case

Grace Millane.
Grace Millane. Photo credit: Supplied.

By Anneke Smith of RNZ.

An Auckland businessman charged with breaching name suppression in relation to the Grace Millane case has kept his own name secret.

A 27-year-old man was found guilty of murdering the British backpacker in Auckland's CBD after a three-week trial last November.

An interim name suppression order remains in force, suppressing his name and any identifying details, until further order of the court.

However, a 63-year-old Auckland businessman is now before the court charged with breaching this court order on the day the guilty verdict was delivered.

He is thought to be the first person charged with breaching name suppression in the case since the defendant first appeared in the Auckland District Court.

The public gallery was packed to standing capacity at his first hearing where Judge Evangelos Thomas refused to grant the then-accused murderer name suppression.

However, the man's lawyer Ian Brookie immediately signalled an appeal which meant the man's name was kept secret on an interim basis until it could be heard in the High Court.

The appeal was successful, but that didn't stop bystanders and even internet giant Google outing the man online - publishing his name and in some instances his photograph.

Last May RNZ reported police hadn't charged anyone with breaching name suppression, despite the flux of online content in the days after the court hearing.

Police have now charged an Auckland businessman, who faces up to six months' imprisonment or a $25,000 fine if convicted of the offence.

The man is accused of knowingly publishing the name of Millane's murderer on November 22, 2019 - the day the jury returned with a guilty verdict.

In a statement, Detective Inspector Scott Beard, who led the investigation into Millane's disappearance, said police investigated six notifications relating to alleged breaches of suppression orders in the case.

"Each investigation is dealt with on its merits. Two were from overseas and outside our jurisdiction. In one, there was insufficient evidence available to charge anyone. In another two, police have decided to exercise discretion and to warn the individuals concerned."

He said the sixth notification had resulted in police charging the 63-year-old, and others should be warned the interim suppression order remains in force.

"Police will assess the circumstances of any reported breach of court suppression orders in this case. Anyone who has posted the defendant's name risks facing investigation and prosecution.

"Police would advise any person who has this person's name on their social media account to remove it immediately. The reasons why police may choose to warn someone rather than prosecute are also case specific and a number of factors can be taken into consideration in making this decision."

The Auckland businessman is due to appear in the Auckland District Court on February 7.

The man convicted of murdering Millane will be sentenced in the High Court at Auckland on February 21.