Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
During an investigation into his having improperly associated with a criminal, a constable's access to NSW Police computer systems was audited. The audit found that he had on two occasions accessed the record of the person he was improperly associating with, and the records of a large number of people on some 200 occasions. 'Some of these improper accesses related to members of the constable's own family, some to 'old flames', and some to people with whom he had gone to school. Most access related to a large number of well-known public figures', including boxers, models, TV personalities, politicians and lawyers. He explained this, in part, by reference to envy of their lifestyles.
Despite advice from the NSW Police Service' solicitor that there was sufficient evidence to support four departmental charges relating to improper access to computer records, the Commander (professional responsibility) decided that he should only be admonished because 'there is no real evidence of criminal intent' or financial gain.
The Ombudsman rejected this approach and recommended that the Commander seek advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions as to whether criminal charges could be preferred against the constable. The matter has not yet been determined.
The Ombudsman cites this complaint as a leading example of the NSW Police Service's unwillingness to treat sustained complaints of improper access as anything other than minor disciplinary matters: see Reports, Submissions and Reviews this issue (1 PLPR 175).