'Innocent until proven guilty': Expert on why names are suppressed

The AM Show 11/12/2018

There's been a backlash to the decision to grant interim name suppression to the man accused of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane.

The name and identity of the 26-year-old is being widely circulated on social media even though a judge has suppressed his identity for 20 days.

Appearing on The AM Show on Tuesday, Otago University law professor Mark Henaghan warned there were serious consequences to sharing his identity and said there were important reasons why the accused got suppression in the first place.

"The judge in this case thought there wasn't even an arguable case for suppression but the lawyer - and the lawyer is just doing their job as defence lawyer - said 'I'm going to appeal that'," he says.

"That meant the judge was stuck with suppression."

This means that the interim name suppression will continue until the appeal can be heard in the High Court. Prof Henaghan says there are important reasons why the name could continue to be suppressed.

"The strongest one is trying to make sure that it doesn't interfere or prejudice with a fair trial later on," he says.

"The fundamental principal of our criminal law is people are innocent until proven guilty. We don't know what the defendant is pleading here, we don't know the circumstances, and so in those circumstances we don't want anything to interfere with a fair trial."

But he thinks it's likely that we will all find out the name of the murder-accused.

"The general principal of criminal law is that it's a public event and therefore the public are entitled to know who the people are who are being charged," he says.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard, who has been heading the case, has warned people that breaking the suppression order is illegal.

"We would like to remind the public that whilst we appreciate the public feeling around this case, it is an offence to breach a court order such as a name suppression, and this includes naming someone who has name suppression on social media," he said.

And Prof Henaghan says that sharing the accused's name could have serious repercussions for New Zealanders.

"You're in contempt of court which is a serious offence - an imprisonable offence," he says.

"We want to be tried by the proper processes of justice."

Watch the full interview with Mark Henaghan above.

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