Considering action against Google 'about principle', says Justice Minister

"It's totally about principle," the Justice Minister says as he considers legal action after Google is reportedly not intending to change processes, after the company breached name suppression of the person accused of killing Grace Millane. 

Ms Millane, a 22-year-old tourist from England, arrived in New Zealand in November last year and went missing on December 2 - her body was found a week later.

A man was charged with her murder and his name is suppressed.

In December, a "what's trending in New Zealand" email from Google contained the name.

Andrew Little said he had been in correspondence with Google since then, and the Prime Minister had followed up with senior executives in January.

"To find out just this week they've decided there's nothing they can and nothing they will do, I think that just shows contempt for New Zealand and its justice system."

He said Google came to that conclusion due to the events around the Grace Millane case being "relatively unique".

The email from Google to Mr Little yesterday reads [the company ]"have looked at our systems and it appears that last year's situation was relatively unique as it was a high profile case, involving a person from overseas, which was extensively reported by overseas media". 

Mr Little said he was "not prepared to accept that".

"Even though we're a small country, our criminal justice system is put at risk and fair trial rights are put at risk because an international corporation decides they're above the law, that is not right."

"Whether it's legal action or whether it's regulation or cooperating with other countries to make sure if this happens, Google is called to account."

A Google spokesperson told 1 NEWS that it "respects New Zealand law and understands the sensitivity around this issue".

"When we receive valid court orders, including suppression orders, we review and respond appropriately."

The Prime Minister today said there needed to be mechanisms in place to uphold domestic legislation.

"I'm open to having a conversation about what makes it easier for compliance for those who are operating across international jurisdictions, but that means having that conversation.

"Google's response thus far has been disappointing, but it's now for us to look at what we do next."

Mr Little was not aware of any similar incidents occurring, however, he said, "if Google isn't going to play ball through dialogue and cooperation, then I'll have to find other means and I'm taking advice on that, I'm meeting with counterparts in other parts of the world".

Mr Little said the issue was about principle. 

"It's about accepting the criminal justice system operates to a set of rules and laws, that means fair trial rights and if there's things that happen that undermine those fair trial rights, there is some sort of recourse."

"This is an important issue, it will have a level of priority - but it'll be a few weeks away yet."

For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS Tonight at 10.30pm. 

Source: 1 NEWS