New Zealand Law Society - Response to inaccurate reports of the Law Society's actions regarding a breach of privacy

Response to inaccurate reports of the Law Society's actions regarding a breach of privacy

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The New Zealand Law Society wishes to correct suggestions that it attempted to hide a breach of privacy, and to address misconceptions about the use of an injunction.

Reports allege that the Law Society sought an injunction to stop publication of information about a breach of privacy in order to cover up its actions.

Law Society President Kathryn Beck says the injunction was a last resort, sought solely to ensure confidential information was not further communicated.

“Our motivation was to provide the highest degree of protection to those affected by the privacy breach and to the information itself.”

A mistake by a Law Society staff member led to a privacy breach.

“As soon as we discovered the breach we made repeated efforts to contact the person to whom the information had been sent. There was no response until after the order had been sought from the court.  After the proceedings were filed an email was received from the recipient but it did not provide the Law Society with the assurances it had sought. The Law Society considered it had no choice but to continue with the proceedings.  The email from the recipient was put before the court,” Ms Beck says.

“The information was highly confidential. We could not be satisfied the information had been deleted or be assured about the intentions of the person who had received it, so the Law Society had to take urgent steps to protect the privacy and confidentiality of those affected.”

An injunction and suppression orders were sought and granted by the Court.

“The Law Society never intended nor asked that these orders would stay in place indefinitely. They were vital measures to protect the privacy of the information and those it affected,” Ms Beck says.

“We had no intention of preventing any reporting of our breach of privacy. This was made clear to the person who received the information throughout. Our primary concern has always been to protect the privacy of those affected as effectively as possible.

“The time taken between the Court granting the injunction and making the order on Thursday 2 August was longer than had been anticipated.  This was due to the Law Society trying to secure an agreement with the recipient of the information and the media organisation that would continue to protect the confidential information and would not compromise the privacy of the affected individuals when the injunction was lifted. 

“The Law Society had to ensure the information had been deleted, had not been shared and would not be used in the future. The injunction was the strongest and most efficient way to fulfil this duty,” Ms Beck says.