Freedom of Information, Privacy Protection & Public Interest Disclosures in the Northern Territory : annual report 2011-2012
Commissioner for Information and Public Interest Disclosures annual report 2011 - 12
Northern Territory. Commissioner for Information and Public Interest Disclosures
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Commissioner for Information and Public Interest Disclosures annual report; Annual Report
Office of the Information Commissioner
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Northern Territory Government
Page 35 Prima facie decision 1 Correcting a Police Alert The complainant learned that an alert was held against his profile in the police database that suggested he was likely to make false complaints about persons of a particular residential complex. His view was that this information was inaccurate and he sought to have it corrected. NT Police took the view that the information was accurate and refused to correct it. The complainant complained to the Information Commissioner. The alert had been added by two police members who had investigated when the complainant had contacted police to deal with an incident. The police members were contacted about the reasons why they added the alert, and stated that they had spoken to the alleged offenders in the incident, who convinced police that the complainant was the one actually causing the trouble. The alleged offenders also said the complainant was a nuisance and constantly harassed them. One of the police members expressed the view that the alleged offenders were upstanding and good citizens. The decision maker found that this information lacked the factual detail needed to support the assertion that the complainant is likely to make false complaints. It was unremarkable for an alleged offender to dispute the account of an alleged victim, and police members did not identify any other reason for coming to the conclusion that the complainant had caused the trouble. No particular details in the complainants account were identified as being false. The fact that a person may be perceived by some persons to be a nuisance and harass people does not mean that the person is likely to make false complaints. Police submitted evidence of a subsequent incident called in by the complainant and investigated by two different members. This was submitted as evidence that the alert was accurate, but primarily served to highlight the potentially problematic effect of placing such an alert on the police database. The members who investigated the second incident saw the alert and immediately formed the conclusion that the complainant was making another false complaint before doing anything more about the incident than speaking to the complainant. No facts to support this assessment of falsity were indicated other than a reference to the alert itself. The alleged offender was spoken to and denied the allegations and the investigation was then terminated. Additional issues of procedural fairness arose in this case which also supported the need for the Information Commissioner to hear the matter. The decision maker decided that there was sufficient prima facie evidence to support the complainants contention that the alert was inaccurate and ought to be removed, although the accuracy of the alert was a question of fact that would need to be decided at hearing. An alert is not a kind of information that is for historical purposes only. Following the prima facie decision, NT Police voluntarily removed the alert and the matter was resolved.
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