Investigative journalist Nicky Hager's application for a judicial review into the police search of his Wellington home following the release of his Dirty Politics book will be heard at a substantive hearing in March.
In a judgement made in the High Court at Wellington yesterday, Justice Robert Dobson confirmed the hearing would take place on March 23 and 24.
The court heard that in applying for the judicial review, Hager asked the court to investigate the steps taken by police in applying for the warrant for the raid and also its execution.
The October 2 raid followed a complaint from blogger Cameron Slater that he had been illegally hacked and yielded physical records, computers, CDs and USB drives from Hager's home.
Hager's lawyer Julian Miles QC argued that police should not have applied for the warrant, knowing that the source material for Dirty Politics was subject to journalistic privilege under the Evidence Act.
However, representing the police, Rico Horsely argued that the steps taken in the preparation for the application for the warrant were purely internal administrative steps that should not be subject to the review.
Not only would it be novel for steps in the police investigative process leading to an application for a search warrant to be subject to a review, it would also create an unfortunate precedent that would likely hamper the course of criminal investigations generally, he submitted.
A previous minute issued from the court stated that the electronic material seized in the raid was to be cloned at the Electronic Crime Laboratory (ECL) in Auckland.
However, as the facility was run by police, Hager submitted that it offered inadequate assurance for the protection of his data.
He further submitted that as some of the files seized included allegations of corruption within police, he was concerned that the data survived in its original condition.
The court offered Hager to nominate an observer to monitor the integrity of the cloning, but Hager submitted that would incur an inordinate cost he was unable to meet.
He instead proposed the cloning be done by Daniel Ayres from firm Elementary Solutions. However, the proposal was resisted by police, with their lawyer stating that Mr Ayres was not a neutral party.
Justice Dobson instead proposed for the cloning to be carried out by a qualified expert nominated by ECL who would be designated an officer of the court.They would be instructed to carry out the cloning on the proviso they did not access any of the electronic files and any information gleaned would be deemed strictly confidential with no disclosures to be made without the specific consent of a judge.Four copies would be made of the seized files, and the original returned to Hager.The proposal was not immediately accepted by Hager's counsel.