UK papers might soon have to obey NZ suppression orders

Justice Minister Andrew Little says it's looking likely suppression orders issued by our courts will soon be enforceable overseas.

He's recently been in talks with his counterparts from the UK, Canada, Australia and the US, and all but the latter are on board.

"Given that they are about protecting fair trial rights and ultimately to ensure victims know the person who has harmed them is going to be fully brought to account, we need - in this day and age where a news outlet on the other side of the world can have their story picked up and published in New Zealand - to be able to protect the suppression orders issued by New Zealand courts," he told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"People have got to go away and do the work, but I'm confident now there is a pathway we can be hopeful about."

The problem made headlines last year after Google sent the name of the man accused of killing British tourist Grace Millane in Auckland to subscribers of its trending service. 

Millane's murder had been picked up by news outlets in the UK, who don't answer to New Zealand court orders, and named her alleged killer. 

There are no borders on the internet, so Kiwis were able to read the UK reports - including his name. With so many then putting that name into Google to find out more, it soon showed up on Google's trending search lists - and that's how it ended up being emailed out, breaching the suppression order.

"Google, through their automated processes, effectively breached the suppression orders over that case," said Little.

"I simply raised with my counterpart ministers whether they would be interested in exploring the idea that suppression orders issued by New Zealand courts could be enforced in those other jurisdictions."

While lawmakers from the UK, Canada and Australia are keen, Little admits he didn't even bring it up with US Attorney-General William Barr. Google's parent company Alphabet is based in the US. Little said the US legal system is very different to ours, so it would be more difficult to make mutual arrangements.

"I had much more limited time with Attorney-General William Barr, and had other priority issues to raise with him, so I didn't get to it. It was low on the order of priority, given their jurisprudence on these sorts of issues."

He said talks with Google had been "receptive", and hopes the company might do something without being legally forced to.

"If they can target even just amongst New Zealand users of Google what hotels I might want to go to, what destinations I might want to travel to - I don't think it's beyond them to manage their algorithms in a way that understands - they can target the stories that [breach New Zealand suppression orders]."



Contact Newshub with your story tips: