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Is it possible that Todd Barclay did not commit an offence?

By Steven | June 20, 2017

Newsroom has done a terrific job of trying to get to the bottom of the allegation that National MP Todd Barclay secretly recorded his former electorate agent Glenys Dickson.

Newsroom claims Barclay left a dictaphone in the Gore electorate office and recorded Dickson’s side of phone conversations. It suggests that he may have recorded conversations between electorate staff too. It suggests he used the material against her in some unspecified way. It’s not clear whether this happened only once or multiple times.

Barclay has denied all this. But it seems that not everything he said has turned out to be entirely accurate. (For instance, he’s quoted saying he would cooperate with any police investigation, but according to police, he refused to be interviewed).

It’s a crime to use a recording device to record a private conversation that you are not a party to. It sure sounds like Barclay has committed that crime. Newsroom certainly asserts it. It looks like Barclay (or someone) told Bill English about it, and Newsroom has texts where Bill English talks about this. So why did the police, after investigating, decide that it didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute?

I don’t know. But here are a few things that I suppose might be murky, or might provide a defence:

I haven’t seen the police advice. Maybe I’ve missed something. But I have to wonder about their conclusion.   Isn’t it about now that Graham McCready usually puts in an appearance?

I note, in any event, that this issue about the Crimes Act doesn’t exhaust the legal analysis here. There are also possible breaches of the Privacy Act (we might start with the general obligation to let people know when you’re collecting information, and the obligation to do so in a way that is lawful, fair and not unreasonably intrusive). There are also possible tort claims  for intrusion and breach of confidence. Then there are employment issues about duties of trust and confidence (though how that plays out given that the Parliamentary Service is the employer, I’m not sure; but I’d expect at least a duty to investigate properly).

 

Topics: Journalism and criminal law, Privacy Act, Privacy tort, Whistle-blowing | 39 Comments »

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