Decision reserved

04:51, Feb 22 2013

An Invercargill District Court judge has reserved his decision on whether police have a right to reclaim documents mistakenly given to a defendant in a major drug case.

A hearing was held in the Invercargill District Court this afternoon after it was revealed earlier this week hundreds of heavily censored electronic files relating to Operation Canary and given to the seven people charged, could be easily unmasked.

Police applied to the court to have the files recovered.

At this afternoon's hearing, Judge Kevin Phillips was told the files related to various aspects of the investigation and included the names of police informants.

Appearing for the crown, lawyer Sarah McKenzie said the files were privileged and confidential and police had not intended to make them available to those charged, in their unredacted form.

The files had only been unmasked once they had been copied by one of the defendants, David Payne, she said.
Mr Payne's lawyer David Slater argued his client had a right to retain the files and he did not accept the information was privileged or confidential.

There was also significant discussion over whether the district court had the power to order the documents to be returned, with Mr Slater maintaining the court could only order the information not be used in any proceedings.

Judge Phillips said he hoped to release his decision on Monday.

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The Southland Times