Police over-haul OIA handling procedures

Police over-haul OIA handling procedures

National News

Since the release of information in relation to Mr Tony Veitch, Police have over-hauled the system of handling Official Information Act requests, the District Commander for the Auckland City District, Superintendent George Fraser, said today.

Mr Fraser was commenting on the release of the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) investigation into the decision by Police to release information about six assault charges which had been dismissed by the court following Mr Veitch's plea of guilty on the remaining charge.

The IPCA acknowledged that it was appropriate for the Police to consider whether there was an interest in balanced media debate in respect of this matter. However the Authority found that Police erred in considering that there was a public interest in balanced debate by releasing the information and that such an interest outweighed the privacy interests of the individual.

"The officer overseeing the investigation was under pressure on account of other serious crime investigations that he was leading at the time. As a result he did not provide Mr Grieve QC with the opportunity of review, as he had earlier indicated he would. The officer has acknowledged this and has apologised."

"It is accepted that if advice to Mr Grieve QC had taken place as was intended, the debate and decision as to what was to be released or not released is likely to have gone through a far more robust and challenging process."

"The Authority recommends that Police consider consulting with Mr Grieve and Mr Veitch regarding a public apology and we will do that."

Coincidental but of relevance to this case, Police have addressed issues with the management of requests for information under the OIA and Privacy Acts.

"We've taken action in three areas - training, systems and clarification of roles and responsibilities," said Mr Fraser.

Key changes include:

• Ongoing training will be provided to relevant staff on how to respond to requests.
• A documented process that will apply nationally.
• Responsibility for the reply now rests with the business owner.
• A single electronic system to log and track requests is being rolled out throughout the country.
• District Coordinators have been designated to coordinate and oversee the OIA and Privacy functions.
• Requests forms are available from police and online.
• Online guidance is available to staff.
• The requirement for high level sign-off of "highly sensitive" requests.

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For media liaison contact Darragh O'Riordan, NZ Police Public Affairs 027 223 6743