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Current as of 28/02/17 09:39AM NZST

Police deliver TradeMe names to prisoners

By Anna Leask

The private details of up to 10,000 Trade Me users - described as a "shopping list for criminals" - have been released by police to prison inmates.

Police investigating the so-called terror raids last year obtained the information of the innocent traders as evidence. They then passed the disclosure material to defence lawyers and, in one case, to the prison cell of Jamie Lockett.

One of the "Urewera 16" arrested on firearms charges, Lockett received 16 boxes containing 24,000 pages of information relating to the police case against him, according to this week's Listener.

One of the boxes contained the personal details of up to 10,000 Trade Me customers, including their name, user name, personal email address, phone numbers, home address and trading history over the past five years.

One trader, whose details were passed on to Lockett, recently bought an AK-47 military assault rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition and other firearms, including target rifles.

A mother-of-three, whose trading history includes My Little Pony books and has no connection to the Urewera 16, was horrified her details were in the police paperwork.

"It certainly makes me think twice about Trade Me," she told the Listener. "I can understand the police going for a search warrant, but I think they have given them far too much. I'm quite shocked by it all, particularly the channels it came through."

Trade Me and police were yesterday non-specific over who was responsible for releasing the details of the thousands of innocent traders.

Trade Me security manager Dean Winter said the company had no choice in what information it gave to police. The popular Kiwi auction site was merely a witness in the investigation and had no control over the information once it had been passed on, Winter said.

"We were served with a search warrant, and we complied with the search warrant. We didn't have a choice whether we thought the information was relevant or not."

Winter said it was disappointing the information had been passed on by police to the accused.

"I think lawyers should take more responsibility for the information they receive under disclosure in some circumstances," the former detective said. They need to take responsibility for its security. Handing it on to the accused is a bit silly in some cases."

Detective Sergeant Aaron Pascoe, of the police Special Investigation Group, refused to comment on what information had been requested from Trade Me and why.

He also refused to comment on why so many traders' details had been requested, thousands of whom are unconnected to the Urewera case, rather than only those specific to the investigation. "We are required to disclose any information that is potentially relevant to a defence lawyer," Pascoe said.

"The rules I am bound by are to ensure we have a trial that is not impacted by a lack of disclosure."

It is standard legal practice for the prosecution to provide the defence with any discovery information relevant to its case.

Defence lawyers are given masses of paperwork from police on behalf of their clients, who also have the right to view the information.

Danny Toresen, chief operating officer of private investigation firm Paragon New Zealand, said that the traders' information could serve as a "shopping list" for criminals in the wrong hands.

An enterprising criminal could copy the information and sell it to underworld figures, said Toresen, then homes could be put under surveillance and burglars could target specific items. "The important correlation in the information is the goods to an address," he said. "As a shopping list, it has value."

A spokeswoman for Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said the incident raised "significant concerns" but she would not comment further because the matter was before the courts.

- Herald on Sunday

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