Wiped data claim fuels war of words

VERNON SMALL AND PHIL KITCHIN
Last updated 05:00 03/08/2012

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Tensions between ACC Minister Judith Collins and former ACC chairman John Judge have boiled over in public after claims an investigation into a leaked email had been hampered because Mr Judge had replaced his computer and wiped data.

Mr Judge yesterday described the claims as "pathetic".

Ms Collins said she did not know whether the inquiry by Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff had been delayed or hampered, and had not said that. But she would not descend to "name calling".

The war of words came after Ms Collins confirmed, in response to an Official Information Act request, that Mr Judge had destroyed or replaced his home computer in April, after an inquiry was launched into how an email, sent by former National Party president Michelle Boag to Ms Collins, was leaked.

The email related to ACC whistleblower Bronwyn Pullar, who was at the centre of a mass ACC privacy breach. Ms Collins is taking defamation action against Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little over suggestions the leak came from her office.

Asked in the OIA if she had information that Mr Judge's computer had been destroyed, Ms Collins said: "Yes, the information I have received is that Mr Judge's home computer was replaced in April this year."

But yesterday she had received "slightly different" details.

Mr Judge said yesterday that Ms Collins was aware he had replaced his home computer before Mrs Shroff's inquiry was announced and all its data was copied to the new one.

His personal computer was replaced in April as part of a routine upgrade. The replacement process began in February when he obtained quotes. As a security measure, redundant material still on his old computer was cleared, before he disposed of it.

"There is nothing untoward in what I did. I had deleted the emails received from the minister's office shortly after I received them."

It was his practice to delete emails not directly relevant to him in the future and where they were held by the organisation with which he was involved.

Mr Judge said he was also provided with an iPad by ACC, which was wiped and handed back to ACC in June. But it was not "synched" to ACC's computer systems nor to Mr Judge's personal computer. It did not receive emails related to the leak.

He had co-operated fully and his personal computer was available to the Shroff inquiry.

He had not copied, printed or forwarded any email received from Ms Collins' office.

Outgoing ACC boss Ralph Stewart backed up Mr Judge.

Meanwhile, information provided by Ms Collins has revealed further tensions between her and Mr Judge in March, about the time the leak was made public.

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In a letter to him on March 27, she said she was concerned ACC made no reference to privacy issues in its draft plan for the year.

"I advised you that I had serious concerns about the level of commitment across ACC to protecting the privacy of claimants' information," she said.

The letter also ticked him off for seeking a law change as a precursor to privatisation.

"I have not suggested this change and made it perfectly clear to you in our meeting on 10 February, when you raised this matter, that this would not be happening."

Labour ACC spokesman Mr Little said Ms Collins was out of line commenting on the Shroff inquiry and should step aside as justice minister until it was was over.

- The Dominion Post

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