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A woman complained to our office that Police failed to adequately respond to her request for information about a wilful damage incident at her home in 2015. The woman said Police made a significant mistake in noting her account of the incident and she had tried without success to get Police to change it.

The incident involved a boarder who had been lodging at the woman’s rented home until she asked him to leave because he was unreliable in paying board. On leaving, the boarder made threats to the woman and, soon afterwards, someone smashed a pane of glass in the front door. The incident was captured on the woman’s security camera.

Just after the damage happened, the woman called Police. A Police officer took down the woman’s version of the events and she was able to also show him the security camera footage of the incident.

Afterwards, the woman emailed the officer several times for a copy of the incident report but did not get a response. She followed up several months later in early 2016 by calling the Police station and talking to a staff member who noted her request. A couple of weeks later, she received an email from the Police officer who dealt with her case at the time. His email to her included a summary of the case.

The Police account stated the boarder smashed the front door glass pane as he left the property. In the Police account, the person who smashed the door was identified as the boarder. The woman said this was wrong. The boarder had moved out earlier that evening before an unidentified person came to the house and smashed the door.

The woman said her impression, supported by images on her security camera, is that the door was smashed half an hour after the boarder had left. She was adamant the boarder did not smash the door as he was leaving and, additionally, the security camera footage showed the assailant had a hoody on and could not be clearly identified.

The woman complained to our office because she believed Police had not supplied her with all the information about her case. In particular, she wanted a copy of what she called the incident report that she had signed at the time. She was at a loss as to how the Police officer could say in his summary that the boarder broke the glass door pane, when the offender had come from the street and had covered his face.

Principle 6

The woman’s complaint raised issues under Principle 6 of the Privacy Act which gives people the right to access personal information about them. Principle 6 says where an agency holds personal information about a person, that person is entitled to obtain confirmation from the agency on whether or not it holds such personal information, and to have access to the information.

Principle 6 also says that where a person is given access to their personal information, they should be advised that they may request the information be corrected (principle 7).

We contacted Police and explained the complaint. Police responded by providing a copy of the incident report but it did not include a signed copy. The woman was insistent she had signed a copy on the night of the incident and that was what she wanted to see because she believed it was her definitive account of what happened.

By now Police were sure they had provided the woman with her entire case file. But the woman said a signed copy of her statement was still missing. After further contact between our investigator and Police, one of the officers who attended the incident discovered an electronic document which was most likely the document the woman was seeking. It was sent to the woman and Police concluded all the information had been sent and nothing had been withheld.

Principle 7

However, the woman continued to be concerned the information Police had about the incident was not the full account of what happened. Our investigator then discussed principle 7 with the woman and explained how to add a statement of correction to the Police file.

Principle 7 gives a person the right to request correction of personal information. If a correction is sought but not made by the agency, the person is entitled to have a statement of correction attached to the information.

The woman advised our investigator she would write a statement of correction to be included in the Police file on her case. She thanked our investigator for his help, and we closed our file.

July 2017

Police – wilful damage – security camera footage – incident report – right of access to personal information – correction of personal information – Privacy Act 1993; principles 6 and 7