Loss of drink-drive lists decried

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 07:34 23/04/2013
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Anti drink-driving groups have hit out at government agencies which they say are protecting the privacy of drink-drivers by refusing to release details of their convictions.

Since 2010 the Manawatu Standard has published a monthly list of names, occupations and sentence details for everybody convicted in the Palmerston North District Court for drink-driving or driving under the influence of drugs.

But police and the Ministry of Justice are now refusing to release such details, prompting concern from the chief executive of Students Against Driving Drunk, Anna Braidwood.

She said the "name and shame" aspect of lists was cited by young people as one of the main deterrents from driving after drinking.

"From that perspective alone [the lists] are a valuable thing to continue."

Mrs Braidwood said young people would cite publicity alongside the risk of injury, effect of a conviction and risk of harming others when talking about the consequences of driving under the influence.

AA Manawatu district chairman Paul Rieger was particularly concerned about repeat drink-drivers, saying their names "should be published in bold".

"It appears to be an anomalous decision to no longer provide the information given that the same information is available when attending a court session."

When the Standard began publishing the lists, Palmerston North area commander Inspector Pat Handcock told the newspaper police recognised there were advantages in naming convicted drink-drivers.

The list was always one of the most read stories on the Standard website and the lists continued to be provided by police, under the Official Information Act, until February.

However, police Central District commander Superintendent Russell Gibson wrote to the newspaper earlier this month, saying he had passed the request on to the Ministry of Justice.

"Recent incidents involving the improper, albeit often inadvertent, disclosure of personal information by other government agencies has caused me to undertake a review of the Central Policing District's personal information management and disclosure practices," he wrote.

The Ministry of Justice then refused to provide the same information, saying it would not release any names for "privacy reasons".

Yesterday, a ministry spokeswoman said it did not hold the information asked for, while Mr Gibson said it wasn't appropriate for police to continue providing the lists.

"The issue is not whether the publication of drink-drivers is a good preventative tool, it's simply that we don't own this information."

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Media law expert Steven Price said it would be difficult to argue it was necessary to protect a person's privacy, as is allowed under the Official Information Act, if they had appeared in court.

A spokeswoman from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner said she was not aware of any complaints from people who had appeared in drink-driving lists.

- Manawatu Standard

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