The Office of the Privacy Commissioner recently received a complaint after Police declined to disclose information to an applicant, due to its potential harm to the applicant’s former partner. The Office decided that the Police were justified in withholding the information.

The applicant sought to use information in Family Court proceedings that the Police had received from his former partner. The information was provided by his former partner as evidence for the renewal of a gun licence.

In New Zealand, people have the right to access personal information that agencies hold about them under principle 6 of the Privacy Act 2020.

The Police relied on three grounds under the Privacy Act, to justify the withholding of the information. The grounds relied upon were the potential harm that it would cause to the former partner, the former partner’s own right to privacy, and that it would prevent the maintenance of the law.

The Office decided that these grounds provided justification for preventing the release of the information.

The investigation found that the former partner had previously raised criminal allegations against the applicant and they were involved in ongoing Court proceedings.

One of the aims of the Privacy Act is to prevent the release of information where it may allow offenders to obtain information about victims, especially in cases of sexual assault. The Office in this case decided that the release of information may cause harm to the partner and contribute to possible reoffending.

Further, the information itself was the former partner’s opinion, so also included her own personal information.

In cases like this information may still be released if an applicant’s interest in releasing the information outweighs the other party’s interest in keeping it private. However, this was not met in this case.

The Police also relied on the fact that the information was gathered during a confidential Police interview and that releasing the information may have hindered the maintenance of the law.

These factors considered together meant that it would not be just to release the information to the applicant, and the Office upheld the Police’s refusal of the application.

It is important to know your privacy rights in New Zealand. If you are confused about these, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

 

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors