From Stuff yesterday:
Police undertaking to Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager allegedly broken
Police broke their undertaking not to use information seized from the home of Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager, the investigative journalist’s lawyer claims.
Hager wants the High Court to review the police decision to get a search warrant and conduct the search. He says his information should not have been seized because it was covered by journalistic privilege.
In the leadup to a hearing of Hager’s claim, his lawyers have continued to ask for copies of relevant police documents. Some of the documents have been shown to Hager in an edited form. One that was first released in edited form was later shown in its entirety.
Hager’s lawyer, Felix Geiringer, says the unedited version indicates police have broken the undertaking to seal Hager’s information and not use any of it pending a decision in the case. It is alleged an officer involved in the search read a document and instructed another officer to make inquiries about a person whose name appeared in the document.
If the allegations are true this is a major breach of trust by the police. As I/S puts it at No Right Turn:
This is significant. The court case is over whether the information could have been seized at all, or whether it was covered by journalistic privilege. By breaking their undertaking, the police deliberately sought to make the court’s decision moot and to benefit regardless of whether their search was ruled lawful or not. It is a deliberate attempt to subvert the ruling of the court and a clear sign of bad faith and a lawless attitude among the police – the same sort of approach which saw charges thrown out in Nelson recently. And those responsible for it need to be held to account.
If the police ever publish anything based on this information that makes its way online, I wonder whether it could be an interesting test of the new Harmful Digital Communications Act which states (Principle 7, from the draft Bill) that “A digital communication should not contain a matter that is published in breach of confidence”.