Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Suspected leaker loses appeal bid

File photo / Mark Mitchell
File photo / Mark Mitchell

A clerical assistant suspected of leaking two confidential cabinet papers to the Labour Party has lost his Court of Appeal bid to challenge the findings of the Paula Rebstock inquiry into the leaks.

However the court has continued suppression orders on the suspect, known as Applicant A, his name and where he worked at the time of the leak and previously.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie says he will challenge those suppression orders, assuming that Ms Rebstock's final report confirms her draft findings.

The case related to cabinet papers that were leaked in May 2012 about a major restructuring and staff cuts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Suspicion fell on him because not only had he handled the documents in his place of employment but records showed that he scanned documents with the same number of pages as the cabinet papers on the day before Labour produced them.

Mr Rennie ordered the investigation into the leak and in the course of her inquiry, Ms Rebstock interviewed A.

Ms Rebstock's draft findings concluded that "there is a proper basis for strong suspicion" that A may have leaked the paper directly or indirectly.

Applicant A's lawyers, Jason McHerron, argued that the terms of reference of the inquiry did not allow Ms Rebstock to make conclusions of suspicion but said she could report on proven facts.

The Court of Appeal has disagreed and said it was within her powers to make deductions on strong suspicions.

It found that while the evidence pointing to A was circumstantial it was still a proper foundation on which to draw a conclusion.

Mr Rennie welcomed the decision, saying it meant Ms Rebstock could now finalise her report.

- NZ Herald

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