An apology has been made by police to blogger Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury after officers investigating the identity of the hacker Rawshark used a loophole in the Privacy Act to unlawfully access his private information.
It is the third apology and settlement made by police following the 2014 investigation into Rawshark, who was said to have hacked information belonging to former Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater.
Journalist Nicky Hager - who wrote the book Dirty Politics based on Rawshark's information - also received an apology and settlement from police, as did his daughter, who was targeted simply through living at her father's home during the writing of the book.
Dirty Politics blew the lid on Slater's links to National Party figures and the attack blogging he carried out on their behalf.
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The book came out shortly before the 2014 election and led to a police investigation that saw police carry out a search of Hager's home, and unlawful access of his and other's personal information held by banks and other corporates.
The access was based around a section of the Privacy Act that allows agencies holding people's personal information to waive their privacy rights if doing so helps the "maintenance of the law".
Police use of the Privacy Act exception has been criticised as an exploit allowing officers to sidestep legal obligations inherent in obtaining production orders and search warrants.
The exception is now only used in situations where a life or someone's safety is at risk, and even then only to obtain the sparsest of personal information.
In Bradbury's case, police told his bank - which has not been identified - Bradbury was being investigated for "computer fraud".
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The police inquiry of Bradbury's bank set off a chain reaction, leading it to review lending to the blogger and to refuse a credit application.
The financial instability it created for Bradbury led to a decline in his mental health and an attempt to take his own life.
It was only years later Bradbury discovered he was a target in the Rawshark investigation and that police had told his bank they suspected the blogger was a criminal.
A letter to Bradbury from police said: "Police apologise for the stress and other psychological harm caused to you by virtue of your involvement in this investigation.
"Police accept that you were not involved in 'computer fraud' and that you were not involved in the hack of Mr Slater's accounts.
"Police have also agreed to pay damages as part of the settlement of your claim, and to destroy the information received from the banks."
The definite statement rejecting Bradbury's alleged involvement in the hack further undermines a conspiracy theory pushed by Slater in the wake of the publication of the book Dirty Politics by journalist Nicky Hager.
Slater, whose Whaleoil blog is now defunct as he battles financial and health woes, had claimed a string of people including high-profile politicians and political activists carried out a highly-organised plan intended to destabilise his mental health and drive him to suicide.
Bradbury was one of those named. No evidence has emerged tying any of the individuals to the hacker, who was only ever known by the nom de guerre "Rawshark", or to suggest there is any basis to the claims of a conspiracy.
The apology from police has been welcomed by Bradbury and comes after he sought a ruling from the Human Rights Tribunal over a claim his privacy rights had been breached by detectives accessing his banking information.
Police had sought to defend the claim with a piece of evidence it claimed showed they were justified.
However, they have refused to tell Bradbury what the evidence was, where it came from or how it was obtained - and asked the Tribunal to allow the evidence to be kept secret from Bradbury.
A ruling on Bradbury's specific case has been headed off by the apology but it remains open to the Tribunal to rule on whether police are allowed to use secret evidence in hearings.
Bradbury said he hoped the ruling would be made and that it would block police efforts in future to rely on secret evidence, or to hold effectively secret hearings during which such evidence would be produced.
"I always believed New Zealand is an egalitarian nation and for police the checks and balances are there to stop something like this happening," said Bradbury.
"It was a shock to discover those checks and balances don't exist."
Bradbury said he still did not know what the secret evidence was although police had ruled out some avenues. Those included surveillance of Bradbury, or that officers relied on accusations by Slater.
At the time, Bradbury was involved in aspects of the alliance between internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom's Internet Party and the Mana Movement, and opposing government efforts to broaden surveillance by intelligence agencies.
"What they were really up to, we're not really sure. It's murky as hell."
Bradbury's case received a boost with the assistance of lawyer Graeme Edgeler, who acted for the blogger at the Tribunal.
Edgeler said it was clear from rulings relating to police access of Hager's information "police have been misusing" the Privacy Act exception for some time.
"It seems police have seen sense and it seems they have changed their practice and won't be doing this type of thing."
Edgeler said police wanting to access people's private information should be seeking production orders. The process requires officers to present evidence supporting their belief it is necessary to carry out a search that would otherwise be unlawful.
Slater did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement, police said: "We can confirm that a settlement has been reached between Martyn Bradbury and New Zealand Police.
"As part of the settlement we have apologised and made a monetary payment to Mr Bradbury for any stress or harm caused as a result of the Police investigation of 2016. As part of the settlement we also acknowledge there is currently no evidence to indicate Mr Bradbury was involved in any computer fraud in relation to the 2016 investigation.
"The settlement brings to an end the civil proceedings against New Zealand Police by Mr Bradbury."