Officials cleared of leaking details on Henderson

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 04/06/2014

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Government officials have been cleared over an email trail suggesting court staff would leak details about charges against bankrupt Christchurch businessman Dave Henderson to the media.

An internal investigation found there was no basis to allegations of "unlawful practice" among staff from the Insolvency and Trustee Service and within the District Court.

The emails, dated November 7 last year, show an Insolvency and Trustee Service investigator giving a "heads up" that charges were being filed against Henderson.

They included a suggestion that once charges were filed, a senior representative was "sure someone at the court will leak the info to the media".

Senior officials apologised to Henderson about the internal emails, which were made public in April.

The legal proceedings against the controversial property developer had related to his conduct in bankruptcy and have since been withdrawn. Henderson had called for a top bureaucrat to accept responsibility for the emails and resign.

Henderson alleged senior staff from the Insolvency and Trustee Service were either aware there was a general practice of leaking information to the media within the District Court or they were in a position to persuade court staff to leak the information.

An internal investigation completed by Kristy McDonald, QC, found there was no basis to the allegations.

Officials who sent the emails were interviewed and counselled by a senior manager at the ministry. No further action against the staff was required, McDonald's report says.

The Insolvency and Trustee Service is overseen by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

"MBIE's response has been apt and commensurate with the seriousness of the behaviour. That does not mean that Mr Henderson himself will be satisfied. His sense of grievance towards the Crown for enforcing against him applicable revenue and bankruptcy laws is unlikely to ever be assuaged."

The Insolvency and Trustee Service investigator at the centre of the controversy, Barend Wolmarans, told McDonald he believed court staff might leak the information to the media because "he thought there was a high chance one or more members of staff might have been, or might know of someone who might have been affected by Mr Henderson's insolvency, and, therefore have a desire to make the fact of charges known.

"There was nothing malicious in his intention when writing the emails, but he accepts, with the benefit of hindsight, that they were ‘silly' and he wishes now he had not sent them."

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Wolmarans admitted he would be pleased if the details about the charges found their way into the media but he had not encouraged the release of the information.

There was no suppression in place surrounding the court case and therefore disclosing the charges was not unlawful, McDonald said.

Henderson said the report was "nonsense" but the outcome was not a surprise.

- The Press

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