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Evidence of Children and Other Vulnerable Witnesses

Submission by the Privacy Commissioner on Law Commission Preliminary Paper 26

1. Introduction

1.1 The discussion paper examines options to address the particular needs of children and other vulnerable witnesses, including defendants, which arise in their involvement in criminal and civil court proceedings and impact on their ability to give reliable, that is complete and accurate, evidence. Vulnerability may arise due to the characteristics of a witness, the nature of the case...

Case Note 2049 [1996] NZPrivCmr 7 - Nurse discloses psychiatric patient details to Opposition MP

Under section 69(2) Privacy Act I initiated an investigation into certain disclosures of health information about a patient contained in a letter written by a nurse and sent to an Opposition MP. The disclosures concerned health information about a patient released into the community under the mental health legislation.

Relevant Facts

The nurse wrote to the Minister of Health expressing certain concerns about release of a particular and identified patient from the secure unit o...

Case Note 8744 [1996] NZPrivCmr 6 - Employee objects to employer questioning doctor about medical condition

An employee faxed her employer a medical certificate, hand-written by a doctor, explaining that she was ill and could not go to work. The employer claimed the certificate was illegible and contacted the doctor to verify that the certificate was in order.

The staff member complained that her employer had tried to obtain information about her illness. Her complaint appeared to be based on a breach of principle 2, which states personal information should be collected directly from the indi...

Case note 7584 [1996] NZPrivCmr 5 - Employee complains employer disclosed psychiatric report to independent doctor

An employee was suspended on the grounds that he was suffering from a psychiatric illness. The employer asked him to undergo a psychiatric assessment by a doctor nominated by the employer. The employee refused to undergo such an assessment but went to a doctor he chose.

He supplied a medical report from his doctor to nominated people within the agency and asked that the report be kept confidential to them.

It was clear that the report he had obtained would be referred to in procee...

Case note 6296 [1996] NZPrivCmr 4 - Hairdresser objects to former employer telling clients of her pregnancy

A hairdresser resigned from her position following a disagreement with her employer. She was pregnant at the time. The hairdresser complained her employer had subsequently told several of her customers she was pregnant.

Following contact with my office the employer apologised and gave an assurance that in the future she would discuss with employees what information could be disclosed when they leave.

The complainant was satisfied with the action taken by the employer and the compl...

Case Note 5532 [1996] NZPrivCmr 3 - Employee objects to former employer keeping written allegations on file

I was asked to investigate whether a former employer was entitled to retain information relating to the purported dismissal of an employee.

The employer had given the employee a notice of dismissal. The employee filed a personal grievance which was settled on the basis that the notice of dismissal would be withdrawn and employee would be allowed to resign. The parties agreed this was full and final settlement of all matters relating to their employment relationship.

The employee w...

Case Note 4292 [1996] NZPrivCmr 2 - Medical Council refuses candidate's request for marked exam scripts

A recent migrant was required to sit examinations to qualify to practise medicine here. The exams consisted of short answer and multi-choice questions. After failing, the doctor asked the Council to return his marked examination scripts. The Council refused his request on the basis that the questions came from a limited pool which were reused. If the questions were to be released, the integrity of future examinations could be prejudiced.

I drew a distinction between the examination ques...

Case Note 2976 [1996] NZPrivCmr 1 - Couple complain bank conducted unauthorised credit check and disclosed employment details

A married couple completed an application form to open a joint savings account at a bank. The customer services officer told the couple that she would 'get it checked' and carried out a credit check on them both.

The credit check was unfavourable and the couple were told they could not open the account.

In the course of obtaining the credit check, the couple's names, address, dates of birth, occupations and places of employment were given to the credit reference agency. After thei...

Official Information Act

Introduction; Constitutional conventions and conduct of public affairs; broadly defined requests and requests for large amounts of information; time limits; ability to charge to recover costs in deciding whether or not to release information; transfer of requests; refusal of requests; compliance with the requirements of Ombudsman; Order in Council procedure; diplomatic documents