Peters suffered breach of privacy but failed to identify who was responsible

The High Court (Venning J) has released a decision that found that Winston Peters had his privacy breached, but in court proceedings he failed to identify who was responsible, despite accusing a number of MPs and public servants. Therefore his claims for damages and declarations have been dismissed

There has also been a substantial cost to the taxpayers who paid for the defendants, but Peters may now have to pay costs (decision reserved).

Plaintiff: Winston Peters

First Defendant: Paula Bennett
Second Defendant: Peter Hughes (State Services Commissioner)
Third Defendant: Anne Tolley
Fourth Defendant: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL sued on behalf of the MINISTRY OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Fifth Defendant: Brendan Boyle (chief executive of the MSD)

Introduction: 

[1] The Right Honourable Winston Peters claims the defendants have breached his privacy.

[2] In April 2010, Mr Peters applied for and was granted New Zealand Superannuation (NZS) by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). Mr Peters was paid NZS at the single rate. In May 2017, Mr Peters’ partner, Ms Trotman, applied for NZS. In the course of processing her application, MSD reviewed Mr Peters’ file. The review raised the question of why he was being paid NZS at the single rate when he had a partner. An MSD officer met with Mr Peters in July 2017. It was agreed Mr Peters had been overpaid NZS as he was not single and had a partner, Ms Trotman, at the time he was granted NZS. Mr Peters immediately arranged for the overpayment to be repaid.

[3] In the meantime, in June 2017, Mr Boyle, the chief executive of the MSD, had disclosed the overpayment and the MSD investigation into it (the payment irregularity) to the State Services Commission (SSC).

[4] On 31 July 2017, Mr Boyle also briefed Ms Tolley, the Minister of Social Welfare at the time, about the payment irregularity. On 1 August 2017, Mr Hughes, the State Services Commissioner, briefed Ms Bennett, the Minister for State Services at the time.

[5] An unknown source disclosed the payment irregularity to the media by anonymous calls to reporters between 23 and 25 August 2017. On one occasion the source alleged Mr Peters had lied when applying for NZS.

[6] On 26 August 2017, Lloyd Burr, a journalist approached Mr Peters. Mr Burr made it clear he had knowledge of the payment irregularity. To mitigate the damage to him personally and politically, particularly in the context of a general election due to be held on 23 September 2017, Mr Peters issued a press statement the next day. Over the next weeks and even months, a number of news items followed in which the payment irregularity and Mr Peters’ situation were discussed further.

The claim

[7] Mr Peters says that the public disclosure of the payment irregularity was a breach of his right to privacy. He says the defendants had a duty to keep the details of the payment irregularity confidential. In disclosing the payment irregularity to others Mr Peters says the defendants breached that duty.3 He seeks declaratory relief and damages.

Some points of interest.

[24] While Ms S should have picked up that question 26 had not been properly or adequately answered and the form was incomplete, Mr Peters must also bear some responsibility for the resultant ambiguity in the form as completed and the consequent issues that arose. To the left-hand side of question 26 is the definition of partner. If Mr Peters had read that definition, it would have been clear, given that Ms Trotman was his partner, that he should have completed the primary question in question 26 and answered it by ticking “Yes”.

[30] There was one further relevant event that occurred before Ms Trotman made her application for superannuation in May 2017. On 18 March 2014, the MSD sent a standard letter to Mr Peters which included a request that asked him to check the following details:

Relationship Status: You are single.
Your living situation: You are not living alone.

[31] Mr Peters did not respond to the letter. He has no recollection of it but accepts he would have received it. He says he understood the letter was asking if there was any change in his circumstances. He took the view that there had been no change in his circumstances since the 2010 interview. While Mr Peters’ details had not changed, the letter expressly set out that the MSD’s records of Mr Peters’ relationship status was that he was single. That was incorrect. If Mr Peters had paid more attention to the letter, he would have realised there was an issue with the MSD’s records regarding his initial application.

There seems to be a contradiction here. “He has no recollection of it” but “He says he understood the letter was asking if there was any change in his circumstances. He took the view that there had been no change in his circumstances since the 2010 interview.”

I don’t now he could have taken an understanding from a letter and taken a view on a letter he had no recollection of. This sounds odd to me.

[75] With respect to Mr Soper, his evidence that, in his opinion, the information was deliberately leaked as an attempt by Mr Peters’ political opponents to damage his credibility and to do what the Prime Minister wanted, which was “to cut out the middleman”, namely NZ First, is speculative. It is not the opinion of an expert based on established fact. Without direct evidence of the original source of the disclosure, Mr Soper’s opinion is speculative. Mr Soper’s opinion that it must have been a political opponent (and inferentially) someone from the National Party or a National Party supporter lacks a proven factual basis. It does not satisfy the requirement for admissibility as expert opinion evidence. Even if it was generally correct that the disclosure was politically motivated, it may not have been disclosed, for example, by a National Party member or supporter. It could also have been disclosed by a Green Party supporter aggrieved at the public backlash against Ms Turei following her disclosure of fraud.

[76] None of the journalists, including Mr Soper, were prepared to disclose their sources. They invoked the protection of s 68(1) Evidence Act. I was not asked to make an order under s 68(2) and was not in any event, provided with evidence to satisfy me that the criteria in that subsection were satisfied.

[108] Mr Peter’s reasonable expectation that the payment irregularity would be kept private must be contextual. It is not absolute. It must take into account that there are some parties who it was necessary or appropriate to disclose the information to. As noted, that includes a number of people within the MSD involved directly in the review and investigation. It also extends to disclosure to the chief executive of the MSD and from him to the chief executive of the SSC as Mr Henry conceded in opening.

[117] In summary, on the first point, I accept that Mr Peters had a reasonable expectation that the details of the payment irregularity would not be disclosed to parties who did not have a genuine need to know about it or a proper interest in knowing about it, and certainly had a reasonable expectation that the payment irregularity would not be disclosed to the media.

[125] In summary, I remain of the view that it would be highly offensive to deliberately disclose details of the payment irregularity to the media.

[141] Mr Peters seeks to overcome his evidential difficulty in identifying who disclosed his private information concerning the payment irregularity to members of the media on 23 and 25 August 2017 by reliance on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

[143] Res ipsa loquitur, literally “the facts speak for themselves”, is a rule of evidence. Res ipsa loquitur generally arises in the context of negligence but is not restricted to that. In the Canadian case of Royal Bank of Canada v Boussoulas, for example, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice accepted it could apply to fraud where fraud was the only consistent explanation for the facts proven.

[148] There are a number of possible explanations as to how the details of the payment irregularity were disclosed to the media. While it is possible the disclosure was politically motivated, it could have been made by members of either of the other major parties, (at that time neither of them knew who Mr Peters and NZ First might support) or even a disaffected NZ First supporter disappointed in a perceived failing by Mr Peters. Further, a supporter of the Green Party or of Ms Turei who considered she had been treated harshly by the media could have been the source of disclosure to the media.

[149] That is the fundamental difficulty for Mr Peters’ reliance on res ipsa loquitur. The doctrine is not applicable where the plaintiff cannot identify the defendant…

[153] In summary, there are a number of elements to Mr Peters’ claim against Ms Bennett and Ms Tolley but they come down to the following key points. First, that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy that the details of the payment irregularity would be kept private. For the reasons given above, I accept that has been established to the extent that he had a reasonable expectation it would only be disclosed to those persons who had a proper interest or genuine need to know. I also accept that public disclosure would be considered highly offensive by a reasonable objective person. Again, for the reasons above, I agree that disclosure of the payment irregularity to the media with the intention it be made publicly available would be considered offensive to a reasonable objective person.

[154] Mr Peters’ pleaded case against the first and third defendants is based on the reasoning that the first and third defendants were members of a political party opposed to Mr Peters so that the information must have been leaked by them to persons who disclosed it to the media. But Mr Henry did not pursue that case directly in closing submission. He cannot rely on res ipsa loquitur to make it out.

So Peters failed in his accusations against Bennett and Tolley – he had no evidence they were responsible for the leak.

[168] The declaratory relief sought is based on the same pleaded facts as the claim for damages. With the exception of Ms Tolley’s unguarded comment to her sister, the disclosures made by the first and third defendants were either made for proper purposes or to persons who had a genuine need to know about the payment irregularity. Ms Tolley was not challenged on her evidence regarding her reason for discussing the matter with her husband and, given the brief and very general nature of the comment made to her sister, I decline to make any such declaration.

[169] The plaintiff’s claim against the first and third defendants on the first and fourth causes of action fails.

[176] I accept Mr Peters had a reasonable expectation that details of the payment irregularity would be kept private, to the extent that it would not be disclosed except for a proper purpose or to parties who did not have a genuine need to know and that it would not be disclosed to the media. But that does not support Mr Peters’ claim that the MSD and Mr Boyle should have kept it private if that is to be taken to mean to not disclose it at all…

[181] Mr Peter’s cannot identify the source of the leak to the media. He cannot say whether it originated from an MSD team member or one of the persons who later obtained the information through the Ministers’ offices. He is left with his reliance on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur in his case against the fourth defendant, sued on behalf of the MSD. But for the reasons expressed above, the doctrine does not assist the plaintiff…

[231] Sir Maarten confirmed that, contrary to Mr Peters’ suggestion, in his experience, whether it was appropriate to brief a Minister did not depend on the Department requiring the assistance of the Minister or of Cabinet. Sir Maarten had not heard of or applied the criteria Mr Peters referred to. I note they are not referred to in the Cabinet Manual. As Ms Casey submitted, the process Mr Peters suggested was not a convention. None of the other Crown witnesses were aware of its application. Neither of the Ministers at the time were familiar with it. I accept the defence evidence on that point.

Peters was wrong about convention of briefing Ministers.

[236] In summary, for the above reasons and in the particular circumstances of this case, Mr Peter’s general allegations against the fourth defendant sued on behalf of the MSD cannot succeed as the plaintiff cannot rely on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to overcome his inability to prove that the source of the leak was a MSD member. I also accept that the second and fifth defendants were justified in disclosing the payment irregularity and Mr Peters’ identity to the Ministers when they briefed them on the ‘no surprises’ basis. In the particular circumstances of this case, the Ministers had a proper interest in knowing Mr Peters had been overpaid NZS, that the MSD had investigated it and that he had been treated the same as any other person would be in the circumstances. The plaintiff’s claim under the first cause of action against the Crown defendants fails.

[245] The allegation that the disclosure had no purpose but to disclose the payment irregularity to a political opponent is also not made out. The evidence is clear the disclosure within the MSD and to Mr Boyle, and by Mr Boyle to Mr Hughes, and then to the Ministers was not for that purpose. Further, there is the point Sir Maarten made that it would be quite improper for a chief executive to attempt to filter information to a minister out of a concern how the minister might use it.

[250] For the reasons given above, the disclosure by Mr Hughes to his Minister was for a proper purpose and to a party who had a genuine interest in receiving it. It cannot be said the disclosure was highly offensive as it was a communication made in confidence to a Minister to whom Mr Hughes was responsible to, and the content was factual and objective.

[274] Mr Soper explained his answer on the basis that he was not saying it was not serious. Politically it was very serious, but what he was saying is that the oversight in payment was not that serious as the money had been repaid. Later in the same interview when asked “Where to from now, how politically damaging could this be?” Mr Soper answered “I don’t think politically damaging at all”. Again, Mr Soper sought to qualify that answer by noting that that statement had been made the day after Mr Peters’ statement and the firestorm had not actually begun at that stage.

[275] Mr Peter’s private information about the payment irregularity should not have been disclosed to the media. The deliberate disclosure of that private information to the media sources caused Mr Peters harm and distress, but ultimately it was mitigated by the actions he took. In the circumstances, if Mr Peters could have identified who disclosed his private information to the media then damages in the region of $75,000 to $100,000 in total might have been appropriate. This was a deliberate breach of his privacy with the intention of publicly embarrassing him and causing him harm.

So an award of damages might have been appropriate if Peters had identified who leaked his information to media.

Summary/result

276] Mr Peters had a reasonable expectation that the details of the payment irregularity would be kept private and not disclosed to parties who did not have a genuine need to know about it or a proper interest in knowing about it. In particular, he had a reasonable expectation that the details of the payment irregularity would not be disclosed to the media.

[277] The deliberate disclosure of the details of the payment irregularity to the media would be regarded as highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.

[278] Mr Peter’s claim against all defendants fails as he is not able to establish that they were responsible for the disclosure of the payment irregularity to the media. He has conceded that neither Ms Bennett nor Ms Tolley were directly responsible for the disclosure to the media. Further, with the exception of the very general, unguarded
comment by Ms Tolley to her sister, the disclosures by the first and third defendants were for a proper purpose or otherwise to persons with a genuine interest in knowing.

[279] The disclosure by the fifth defendant to the SSC and by both the second and fifth defendants to their Ministers were, in the particular circumstances of this case, for a proper purpose and the Ministers had a genuine interest in knowing the details of the payment irregularity.

[280] The plaintiff is unable to rely on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur in this case to make out a claim against any of the defendants, including the fourth defendant.

[281] The plaintiff’s claims for damages and declarations are dismissed.

Costs are yet to be decided, but they usually go against the unsuccessful party in legal proceedings, so I presume that Peters may be liable for costs. If so that will cover some of what taxpayers provided to the defendants.

Peters was justified in complaining about his privacy being breached, but failed to identify the leaker. Instead he accused a number of people, but failed, and that is likely to come at a significant cost to him.

In my opinion this is an example of Peters making accusations against political opponents, sometimes claiming to have evidence or implying he has evidence, but failing to come up with evidence.

His reputation was damaged by disclosure of his Super overpayment, but I believe he has also damaged his own reputation.

The question remains as to why Peters made an incorrect claim on his Super application and failed to notice when he started receiving payments and for the next for seven years that he was being paid more than he was entitled to.

Full judgment: Peters v Bennett [2020] NZHC 761 (20 April 2020)


Newsroom 13 November 2019: Winston Peters accepts National ministers didn’t leak

RNZ today: Paula Bennett welcomes Winston Peters’ privacy court case failure (includes ausio)

National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett says her name has been cleared by the courts after – what she calls – a fishing expedition by Winston Peters for his own political purposes.

Peters claimed the leak was for political purposes and targeted Bennett and Tolley, but Bennett has now responded saying Peters took her to court for political purposes.

The proceeding was initially filed in court just before NZ First went into negotiations with National (Bennett was involved) to supposedly try to form a coalition.

 

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53 Comments

  1. I think it was Whale Oil or Cameron Slater who claimed that a condition of a coalition agreement agreement was that Bennett stand down as deputy leader and MP.

    Slater (Whale Oil.The BFD) is another person with a record of making accusations without backing them up with evidence.

    Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  21st April 2020

    so a breach occurred but [deleted unsubstantiated accusation]

    Reply
    • David

       /  21st April 2020

      It was more than likely an MSD staffer gossiping and it leaked. What a circus, Peters looks foolish when this would have all been forgotten years ago if he had a normal personality.

      Reply
      • duperez

         /  21st April 2020

        It may have been an MSD staffer gossiping which saw it leaked. No ministers should have been anywhere near the story in any official sense because it shouldn’t have got to them in that way.

        If ministers heard gossip from a leak and capitalised on it that’s different. They would’ve been in to make the most of it. Would they have been likely to do that? Did they? The critical thing after that is whether or not the tactic had any effect.

        The glee, the smarm from some quarters about Peters being delivered a kick in the nuts before the election which was to see him gone instead turned out to be the biggest bite in the arse ever in New Zealand politics.

        Peters didn’t win his case but any chagrin and anger at the tactic and events from him pales in comparison to what was delivered to those who so chortled.

        Reply
    • Blazer

       /  21st April 2020

      The ruling is at odds with your conclusion.

      That the guilty party could not be identified suggests what …to you?

      Reply
  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  21st April 2020

    What a gross waste of time and money. You would think the courts had better things to do.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  21st April 2020

      Yes like the case against Ardern,you mean.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  21st April 2020

        No, that one could be very useful in clarifying constitutional rights. What is happening to it? Supposed to be given urgency.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  21st April 2020

          You lose in every point you try to make here, when the text of the law is pointed out. And your understanding is at odds to the plain meaning
          That dude doesnt even have a fraction of your intelligence and comprehension.

          Democracies have surprising amounts of draconian legislation on the books, and in this case the promulgation was unanimously supported by all parties in parliament
          The best comparison would be a parliamentary dictatorship with Ardern as our Cromwell.
          And it doesnt seem any other Westminister type parliaments have an opposition leader with his own US style investigation committee running…

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  21st April 2020

            It doesn’t matter how many parties supported it if it is ruled unconstitutional or unlawful.

            Reply
    • Duker

       /  21st April 2020

      “What a gross waste of time and money. You would think the courts had better things to do.”

      “Peters said he welcomed Justice Venning confirming it was ”a deliberate and malicious breach of privacy done with the intent to damage my reputation and cause harm”.

      For some reason Jo Moir has run the story in RNZ that repeats her view shes the ‘wronged woman’ as the headline , thats what happens when the Journo is ‘too close’ with that politician….
      A while back the Jamie Lee Ross saga showed a journo was much more than best pals..cant mention names

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  21st April 2020

        Considering what Winston does to damage his own reputation it’s hard to imagine anyone else could. That’s probably the lesson from this case.

        Reply
  4. There seems to be a contradiction here.

    [30] There was one further relevant event that occurred before Ms Trotman made her application for superannuation in May 2017. On 18 March 2014, the MSD sent a standard letter to Mr Peters which included a request that asked him to check the following details:

    Relationship Status: You are single.
    Your living situation: You are not living alone.

    [31] Mr Peters did not respond to the letter. He has no recollection of it but accepts he would have received it. He says he understood the letter was asking if there was any change in his circumstances. He took the view that there had been no change in his circumstances since the 2010 interview. While Mr Peters’ details had not changed, the letter expressly set out that the MSD’s records of Mr Peters’ relationship status was that he was single. That was incorrect. If Mr Peters had paid more attention to the letter, he would have realised there was an issue with the MSD’s records regarding his initial application.

    “He has no recollection of it” but “He says he understood the letter was asking if there was any change in his circumstances. He took the view that there had been no change in his circumstances since the 2010 interview.”

    I don’t now he could have taken an understanding from a letter and taken a view on a letter he had no recollection of. This sounds odd to me, like he’s tripping up over different excuses.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  21st April 2020

      Thats because the Court case would have shown him the letter AGAIN.
      So hes saying (1) he doesnt recall it the first time. (2)now hes seeing it again and trying to make sense of what it asks.

      What sort of question is ” You are not living alone”
      Surely it should be check box , check one
      Living alone
      Living with someone else

      and same with relationship, check one.

      However Peters or more correctly his lawyer Henry has a background of not finding favour with High Court judges and yet succeeding in Court of Appeal.
      The judgment is a bit like the Winz letter , full of contradictions. The crux of the matter that the senior civil servants had a purpose in telling the minister at all doesnt seem soundly based.
      The Social Welfare side of things has specific confidentiality provisions just like IRD does as well. It would never be seen as right for IRD to have a ‘no surprises’ process to pass on juicy tax details of other politicians.
      The weasel words of the senior politicians who pulled every trick in the book justify it might come back to bite them at appeal.

      Reply
      • “The weasel words of the senior politicians who pulled every trick in the book justify it might come back to bite them at appeal.”

        The most senior politician? That’s Peters, and if he appeals it could easily bite him, and cost him even more. And it would be politically not very astute. This would be all forgotten years ago if he hadn’t gone to court without evidence.

        I think the judgment makes it clear that Henry gave up with some arguments during the trial.

        Reply
      • “What sort of question is ” You are not living alone””

        It’s not a question, it states his current recorded status as well as “Your are single”.

        Some people getting super don’t live alone but are single – actually anyone in a rest home possibly.

        The letter asked Peters to check the details and verify that they were correct – a standard sort of check.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  21st April 2020

          I meant the weasel words of the senior civil servants. However it cant be both true that Tolley blabbed to her husband AND sister and didnt breach his privacy. That wasnt the journo source but still was a breach – and was good that Tolley was honest.

          She may not have passed it onto the PMs chief of staff/office , but thats clearly where the leak to a/many journos occurred. And thats where the finger is pointed to Bennett, and her reasons for knowing arent in any way legal under the Social Security Act – she was Minister of State Sevices

          The Judge has pointed to a red herring over Peters ;’cant prove’ who leaked to a journalist. He doesnt have to , just that Bennett shouldnt be in the loop and when she passed it on the PMs office there is zero chance of getting any truth out of that nest of dirty politics
          It may be so that Bennett and Tolley werent the leakers but Bennett told the PMs office- which screams LEAK source.

          Reply
          • “The Judge has pointed to a red herring over Peters ;’cant prove’ who leaked to a journalist. ”

            I suggest you read the judgment properly. A key aspect of taking people to court is that you have to identify who was responsible for what your claims are, and you need to have evidence.

            Naming a range of people (initially also some journalists) in the hope that the proceedings will uncover the guilty person – it was extremely likely it wasn’t most of or all of those taken to court – is a waste of court time and resources.

            Everyone is innocent unless prove guilty – this is mentioned in the judgment. And no evidence means not guilty.

            Reply
          • “but thats clearly where the leak to a/many journos occurred.”

            Bull. The judge dound there was no evidence identifying where the leak came from. He even suggested it was possible to have been a Green Party supporter.

            Mr Soper’s opinion that it must have been a political opponent (and inferentially) someone from the National Party or a National Party supporter lacks a proven factual basis. It does not satisfy the requirement for admissibility as expert opinion evidence. Even if it was generally correct that the disclosure was politically motivated, it may not have been disclosed, for example, by a National Party member or supporter. It could also have been disclosed by a Green Party supporter aggrieved at the public backlash against Ms Turei following her disclosure of fraud.

            Peters stuffed up on the basics of this action.

            It has even been suggested that he ‘leaked’ and then made deliberately false accusations for political purposes – again, there’s no evidence of this and I think it’s unlikely, but it’s as possible as anything else with no evidence.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              Dont you see the contradiction of the judge using his own work around to explain some evidence. Thats the lawyers job to challenge some testimony
              Sopers is some how not an expert witness when hes been a journo for longer than all of the others..and he testified he heard it’around the gallery’ in parliament
              Doesnt identify a source , but it makes the case it wasnt some at a low level Winz official but a high level around parliament
              Bennett – Pms Office – favoured journo

              “Justice Venning said Peters’ claim failed because he could not establish that any of the defendants were responsible for the leak.
              Further, he said officials had a proper purpose for briefing ministers about it.”
              https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/414723/paula-bennett-vindicated-by-winston-peters-privacy-court-case-failure
              The judge is wrong about the officials having a proper purpose ..my bet is Henry will get that overturned at appeal for Peters.

              if Bennett didnt have a proper purpose … she is ‘responsible’ as leaks can originate quite a way from where they become noticeable.

            • It’s quite clear and obvious from the post and the judgment as to why Soper wasn’t a reliable expert witness. He simple speculated without any evidence.

            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              Peters statement from above link

              “Peters said he welcomed Justice Venning confirming it was ”a deliberate and malicious breach of privacy done with the intent to damage my reputation and cause harm”.

              “This was always going to be a difficult case because as the decision points out despite evidence of malicious behaviour we had to prove who did it,” he said.

              “While we are disappointed we could not prove who deliberately leaked that data, the ruling makes clear MSD contributed to the error.

              Never made sense to me why he didnt use the provisions of the Social Act to punish MSD and Bennett who should never have known

            • Typical Peters saying “the ruling makes clear MSD contributed to the error”. The judgment also makes it clear Peters was a major contributor to the error – without him making multiple mistakes the MSD wouldn’t have made any errors.

              And MSD through their normal checks asked Peters to verify his status and he made yet another mistake (the 2014 letter), and that was his error alone.

        • Gezza

           /  21st April 2020

          Some people getting super don’t live alone but are single – actually anyone in a rest home possibly.

          Correct. Ma lost her ‘living alone’ status & payment rate when she moved into a Rest Home.

          Reply
  5. Blazer

     /  21st April 2020

    I note Tolley admitted telling her husband =a breach of privacy,because she was …’cross and tired’.

    Reply
    • And Henry noted in court that the two MPs could be ruled out:

      With Henry now saying the two National MPs can be ruled out because of the court hearing, he told Justice Geoffrey Venning: “The only inference on the balance of probabilities is that the MSD was responsible.”

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/117401173/winston-peters-accepts-national-ministers-didnt-leak

      Reply
      • NOEL

         /  21st April 2020

        I suspect the Tolley indiscretion has faded from most minds.
        Belief will always be that the leak was for political purposes.
        As for impact probably nothing if the SOF come back before the election that the Foundation did not breach Electoral law.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  21st April 2020

          Hasn’t faded from mine. I was disgusted with it. Amazed to see her get off so lightly.

          Reply
      • duperez

         /  21st April 2020

        Okay so it could be that Tolley told her husband when she was ’cross and tired’ and he told someone and ‘gossip’ started.

        And years later the discussion is about that sort of trivia and not the main point.

        Is there anyone who can give a rational explanation why Anne Tolley, Paula Bennett Steven Joyce or Bill English should have been given details of a Member of Parliament’s confidential information held by a Government department?

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  21st April 2020

          Are you presuming the judge hasn’t?

          Reply
        • There’s an explanation of that in the judgment.

          Click to access Peters-v-Bennett.pdf

          Reply
          • duperez

             /  21st April 2020

            The explanation?

            What got it into the news was a caseworker notifying their manager of an irregularity which a manager passed on. Not passed on because something a citizen did was suspect but ‘because of the sensitivity around Mr Peters’ profile.’

            How does that tally with, “It was important to confirm that the MSD had treated this case no differently to any other case”?

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  21st April 2020

              I presume it means the decision to let Peters off any penalty or prosecution had nothing to do with his eminence.

            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              The judge looked into that
              [10] “I have come to the view that the error arose through a
              combination of circumstances. The ambiguous nature of the form, the MSD officer who processed Mr Peters’ application and Mr Peters himself all bear some responsibility for the error which led to the payment irregularity.”
              Snafus all round , hardly a basis to prosecute which I dont think happens for Tom Dick and Harry either,

            • It was a bit ambiguous perhaps but here was even a clarification of what ‘partner’ meant on the form.

              Who would see an ex-wife as their partner when they are asked “Do you have a partner?” and they had been living with someone else for years?

              I bet that many current partners would feel very annoyed if ex-partners were referred to as ‘partner’. Thinking of an ex as one’s partner seems remarkable to me (and unforgivable).

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  21st April 2020
      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  21st April 2020

        Interesting case.
        A very big burden for the rest of his life.
        Emigrate would seem the only option,although it will probably still haunt him.
        Public is always fascinated by sexual incidents.
        Shane Jones has managed to live with his blue movie revelation.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  21st April 2020

          Seems hard to justify the ruling that publication is not undue hardship particularly given the time elapsed and possibly his state of mind at the time.

          Reply
          • I thought that Anne Tolley let something to her sister who was praising Winston inordinately; Anne Tolley snapped and said that he wasn’t the saint the sister imagined (or words to that effect)

            Reply
          • Gezza

             /  21st April 2020

            @ Kitty – ah…I haven’t read the decision. If it was that non-specific, that will be why she isn’t in the gun.

            Reply
        • Duker

           /  21st April 2020

          Isnt that the sort of doctors insurance and drug companies recruit ? Dont deal with patients but read files and can make decisions and but speak to other doctors.
          But it is what it is and since it was repeated offences cant be brushed away.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  21st April 2020

            The sentencing will have taken that into account. It is irrelevant to the suppression order. Given the time lapse I would have thought the public interest in publication is well outweighed by its personal destructiveness. The public also has an interest in healthy and performing professionals rather than wrecked

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  21st April 2020

              .. unproductive careers.

            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              Unproductive career ?
              I just pointed out a likely employment scenario …these secrecy people always say they are on the scrapheap, as though the perfect option is the only choice.
              Entitlement means its dragged on…he knows what he did.
              hes a creep and he needs to deal with that in the best way he can, which is likely as health insurance claims or as drug company rep for doctors

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  21st April 2020

              I guess such nastiness becomes you, Duker. I prefer to have more respect for vulnerable psyches and their recovery.

            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              Unfit to practise with women patients.. maybe he could specialise in scrotums

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