A man has been paid $10,000 compensation after Northland police accidentally released confidential information they held about him on their intelligence database to the media and a woman named in the information is also seeking compensation.

Northland's senior policeman, Commander Superintendent Tony Hill, confirmed a settlement had been made following the accidental release of private information which he said was due to human error.

He acknowledged police omitted to redact the name of another person within the disclosure provided to the media.

Hill said the processes police had around ensuring privacy were sound and there would be no changes to them at this point.

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The $10,000 payout plus $1000 towards his legal fees was confirmed in May after 57-year-old Phillip Saleh, who was living in Rawene at the time, requested his information in late 2018.

Under the Privacy Act anyone can apply to see what New Zealand Police have on record about them.

Shannon Parker said the police handling of the matter had been disappointing for all involved.
Shannon Parker said the police handling of the matter had been disappointing for all involved.

Saleh, a digital forensics expert, applied in 2018 to see what police alerts were held against him in the police database called the National Intelligence Application (NIA) database.

Saleh did not have a criminal record but wanted to see what alerts were attached to his name on the police system.

Police can apply alerts to a person' name in the NIA database including whether they were known to carry firearms, had HIV or hepatitis, mental health issues or were likely to assault police.

However, Saleh had his request declined by the police. He took his case to the Privacy Commissioner, who found he was entitled to have all the alerts on his record and the police should release them.

However, the commission said it did not have the power to compel police to release the information and, if police did not, the next step was to take the matter to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

When Saleh failed to get his information and said police were ignoring the finding he went to media organisation Stuff. In response to questions, police then emailed Saleh's NIA alerts and information to a journalist. Saleh received the information held by police about him, 24 hours later.

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Saleh lodged a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority saying police withheld his information, delayed their response and then released his private details to media. That complaint was upheld and police apologised and agreed to a payout.

Saleh said it was important police held correct information about people and that information should be easily accessible.

"There needs to be transparency about what information police have about individuals on their files. If it's incorrect information people should be able to change it."

A woman named in Saleh's information was not notified by police about the breach of privacy but instead heard third-hand. She is currently working through compensation with police.

Northland District Commander Superintendent Tony Hill said there was an oversight at one point in the document and the same name had been redacted where it appeared at several other points in the disclosure.

"The release of the information was through human error and something which police has already apologised for," Hill said.

"Police have looked into how this privacy breached occurred, the staff member concerned was under the mistaken belief that the recipient was requesting it and had the complainant's authority to receive the disclosure on his behalf."

Hill said police took the privacy of the community seriously, but in this case it was simply a matter of a person making a mistake.

"There was no ill intention and the matter has since been rectified."

Shannon Parker, of the New Zealand Police Conduct Association, helped both people with their cases and seeking compensation.

Parker said the police handling of the matter had been disappointing for all involved.