David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Police to destroy Nicky Hager data clones

Nicky Hager and his lawyer Steven Price will be at the High Court at Auckland to witness the destruction of the hard drive and memory card. Photo / Christine Cornege
Nicky Hager and his lawyer Steven Price will be at the High Court at Auckland to witness the destruction of the hard drive and memory card. Photo / Christine Cornege

Police will have to smash a cloned hard drive and memory card seized during an "unlawful" search of the home of investigative journalist Nicky Hager before returning seized computer equipment and files tomorrow.

Hager and his lawyer Steven Price will be at the High Court at Auckland to witness the destruction of the hard drive and memory card, which contain copies of files made by detectives during the 2014 raid, according to a press release this afternoon.

The release, from another of Hager's lawyers Felix Geiringer, said Hager will then be given the destroyed drive and card, along with computer equipment which has been kept under seal at the High Court since the raid.

The return of equipment brings to a close the disastrous police attempt to track the hacker Rawshark through Hager. It was Rawshark who provided damning content from the email and social media accounts of blogger Cameron Slater which was then used in Hager's Dirty Politics book.

The book alleged a dirty tricks campaign run through the blogger's website from the Prime Minister's office - a claim John Key has always denied.

Mr Geiringer's statement said Hager and Mr Price were due at the High Court at noon to collect the items seized during the police raid and held since in sealed containers.

"Mr Price was present during the raid and signed the seals before the containers were removed from Mr Hager's house. He will be inspecting them to ensure that no one has accessed Mr Hager's property while it was in storage awaiting the court decision."

The statement said a police officer was also expected at the court and "Mr Hager and Mr Price will also watch as a police officer destroys a police hard drive and memory card onto which the officers had copied materials from Mr Hager's house".

"The hard drive and memory card have been sealed up with the rest of Mr Hager's belongings inside the Court."

A police spokesman confirmed "in accordance with the direction of the court, certain items will be returned to Mr Hager tomorrow".

"Police will also be destroying other items in the presence of Mr Hager and others," he said.

In December, Justice Denis Clifford ruled against the way police went about obtaining the search warrant used to search Hager's home.

The judgment found detectives sought the search warrant with little more than a "hope" they would find useful information.

Police arrived at Hager's house in October 2014 with a search warrant while the journalist was in Auckland, meeting his daughter at the door. They spoke to Hager by phone, who said there was nothing to identify Rawshark in the house but he was concerned about other confidential source information he held.

In the High Court challenge to the search warrant, Hager said he was able to claim journalistic privilege under the Evidence Act, and a breach of the Bill of Rights. It was also claimed the warrant was too broad.

Justice Clifford said there was "no explicit reference" in the warrant application put before a district court judge to "Hager's status as a journalist". He said it also lacked details about the legal principles around search warrants executed on journalists, or information about the legal rights journalists had under the Evidence Act.

Also lacking was an explanation of how those rights were explained in the Search and Surveillance Act, which was "not the type of facilitation" Justice Clifford believed the law expected.

He said Parliament would have expected a judge to be told about journalistic privilege, partly so the judge was informed but also as a check on police knowledge. He said the result was "a material failure to discharge the duty of candour" by police.

- NZ Herald

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