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Justice Ministry should be prosecuted for bungle

Nick Smith National Party MP

12 October 2005

Justice Ministry should be prosecuted for Family Court bungle

Nelson MP Nick Smith wants the Ministry of Justice prosecuted for publishing on its website sensitive Family Court information in which a family and children could easily be identified.

"This is a serious breach that undermines the confidence of tens of thousands of families who use the court," says Dr Smith.

"The Solicitor-General last year saw fit to prosecute TV3, Radio New Zealand and myself for revealing far less information about a case.

"The family concerned are outraged that very personal information about their relationship and finances was put up on a public website when they could easily be identified. The website uses their initials, ages, the town they lived in, and the specific small business they ran together. The family was alerted by someone who immediately identified them from the government website."

Section 139 of the Care of Children Act makes a person liable for a term of imprisonment of up to three months or a corporate a fine of up to $10,000 for publishing any report that includes particulars that are likely to lead to the identification of a family.

The Family Court section of the www.justice.govt.nz website is fronted by Chief Family Court Judge Peter Boshier. The decisions part of the site was disabled last weekend with the statement 'access to decisions on the website have been disabled temporarily to affect some necessary changes'.

"We cannot have the Ministry of Justice breaking the law. For the Solicitor-General to prosecute the media and an opposition MP but ignore this blatant breach by the Government would drag the integrity of our justice system down to that of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe," says Dr Smith.

Dr Smith has today written to the Solicitor-General on behalf of the family detailing the breach and seeking a prosecution.

ENDS

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