NZ Accused’s Name is All Over the Internet but Media Blackout for UK Backpacker Murder Trial

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In December 2018 British backpacker Grace Millane vanished shortly after arriving in New Zealand. Her alleged killer is about to go on trial but why will his identity be kept secret?

A New Zealander accused of murdering 22-year-old Grace Millane, from England, is due to go on trial on Wednesday, 6 November.

The 27-year-old cannot be named in New Zealand after a judge granted a name suppression order but his identity is already in the public domain because numerous British newspapers and websites published it  last year.

An ordinary New Zealander Sarah Canterbury says the Grace Millane case “hits a nerve” for many Kiwis.

“Kiwis do a lot of overseas experiences so for a female to do what a lot of us do and not be safe hurts us,” Sarah said.

She said: “We have all been her for a night but it has not ended that way. She should have been safe but women take for granted that we are not and take steps. For one moment she let her guard down and she should have been safe and she got killed. She really was representative of all girls and that’s why it broke us.”

​Grace’s body was discovered in a forest a week after she vanished in downtown Auckland. She had arrived in New Zealand as part of a year-long trip, having finished her university course.

​At the time New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke for many Kiwis when she said: “There is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country.”

Her father, David Millane, said at the time: “We all hope that what has happened to Grace will not deter even one person from venturing out into the world and discovering their own overseas experience.”

​Sarah Canterbury said there had been anger in New Zealand at the time when some male social media users sought to blame Grace for going on a Tinder date before her death.

Judges in New Zealand  sometimes suppress the names of defendants if it is felt they will not get a fair trial if their identities are made public.

But the Grace Millane case has highlighted the difficulty of maintaining a name suppression order in the internet age.

Last year several British media outlets named the defendant in defiance of the New Zealand court orders and Google then emailed his name to users in New Zealand who were signed up for alerts.

This led to Justice Minister Andrew Little rebuking Google, who immediately the news alert service in New Zealand.

Sarah Canterbury said: “The media cannot use his name until the judge advises, which is usually at the point of conviction. New Zealand doesn’t have many of this type of murders so the media coverage has been huge and you can’t escape it. You can’t tell a jury to listen to the case but psychology will tell you early signs of prejudice are there already.”

She said that while the press coverage of the Grace Millane case is big in New Zealand, it will pale in comparison to the trial of Brenton Tarrant, the Australian-born gunman who shot dead 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch in March this year.

Tarrant is due to go on trial next June and Ms Canterbury said the New Zealand media was putting together a code of ethics to try and prevent him from “grandstanding his hate messages” in the same way as Anders Breivik did after his attacks in Norway in 2011.

Sputnik

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