Ben Hill is a reporter for The New Zealand Herald

Nicky Hager's cloned data destroyed by police

Nicky Hager has emerged from the High Court at Auckland clutching smashed clones of his hard drive and memory card seized during an "unlawful" search.

The hard drive and memory card contain files made by detectives during a raid in 2014.

The destroyed drive and card along with computer equipment which has been kept under seal at the High Court since the raid has been returned to Hager.

Photo / Dean Purcell
Photo / Dean Purcell

The return of the equipment brings to a close the 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 book Dirty Politics.

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

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

Hager described the "surreal" scene in which a police clone of his hard drive was destroyed.

"We went down to the basement of the high court building here into this narrow room without lights on and the police held torches around while one of the detectives destroyed the material of which they had copied from the house.

"The detective took an orange-handled hammer and he hit the hard drive 213 times, and then he took bolt cutters and put holes in it.

"I am obviously pleased about this as this is my work, this is my future projects, this is my livelihood... Now they'll never be able to have it."

Hager said this was the final stage of the court case which had stemmed from the raid in 2014.

"This has been a long 17 months, and I'm eternally grateful to my lawyers and I'm very grateful to the people from the media and elsewhere who were my witnesses.

"There are also hundreds of New Zealanders who have money towards the case because it cost a tremendous amount for this, and i hope they are joining in the sense of triumph today.

"We'll be walking off with it untouched, in our hands, safe forever."

Watching the copies of his equipment being destroyed, Hager said he felt he was "watching history going on".

"With each blow of that hammer, it was hitting home that the positives of this court case are they're now better protections, better legal protections for the media."

"I'm still gob smacked that police thought it was reasonable to arrive like Rambo and spend 11 hours doing over my house where they found nothing they wanted for their research.

"It was completely and utterly over the top."

Hager said he hoped the court case would ensure people weren't afraid to share information with the media.

He is confident there will not be a repeat of the experience he has gone through.

"I strongly believe that there will be no Rambo police raids into anyone like me or other parts of the media for a long time now, they've learnt their lesson.

"They've lost comprehensively, and they'd have to be fools to do it again."

In October 2014, while Hager was in Auckland, police arrived at his house with a search warrant, 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.

The saga is not quite yet over for Hager, who said he expects to return to court for further issues with police behaviour.

"We've got a few things where we think the police were tricky while they were in the house... We've got more things to come, so the court case is not over... Where they went through my bank accounts and other kinds of data."

- NZ Herald

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