New Zealand Law Society - Improper disclosure leads to ostracism, death

Improper disclosure leads to ostracism, death

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The Human Rights Review Tribunal recently found that the Parole Board breached the Privacy Act when it disclosed an offender’s parole address, with tragic consequences.

This blog by the office of the Privacy Commissioner analyses that decision.

Read the full decision here.

The Board agreed to release the offender from prison in large part because his mother, Ms Tapiki, committed to giving her son a fresh start. Ms Tapiki and her friend Ms Eru put careful thought and preparation into a plan to give the offender “a real chance for reintegration into the community and the best possible opportunity for a positive future,” according to the Tribunal decision.

As part of the plan, Ms Tapiki gave up her small flat and Ms Eru agreed to have the offender and Ms Tapiki live with her. A probation officer assessed and approved Ms Eru’s address and the Parole Board made living there a condition of the offender’s release.

The Board disclosed the offender’s release conditions to his victim, as the Parole Act requires. It redacted some information identifying Ms Tapiki, but it didn’t redact the parole address.

After the disclosure, Ms Tapiki and Ms Eru started receiving threats and somebody smashed their letterbox. The Department of Corrections had to move the offender to another town, where he had no support system. He later took his own life.

The Tribunal found that the Board had breached principle 11 by disclosing the parole address. The breach led to significant injury to Ms Tapiki and Ms Eru’s feelings, making it an interference with their privacy. The Tribunal awarded damages of $16,000 to Ms Tapiki and $12,000 to Ms Eru.

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