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Source: Privacy Commissioner

The Privacy Commissioner says that the Sensible Sentencing Trust (SST) has interfered with a man’s privacy by wrongly labelling him as a convicted paedophile on its website.

The SST’s ‘Offender Database’ listed the man’s picture with the description of a convicted paedophile with a similar name for almost two years before the man found out and complained to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

A member of the public submitted the man’s photo, and a volunteer uploaded it to the database without taking any steps to verify its accuracy. The SST admitted that it did not know who had submitted the photo or who uploaded it. It also admitted that it does not provide its volunteers with privacy training.

“Agencies must take reasonable steps to check that personal information is accurate before they use it. Relying on the assistance of unpaid volunteers does not excuse the SST of its legal obligations,” Mr Edwards said.

The Office’s investigation found that the SST had clearly harmed the man with its actions. The man was subjected to social media abuse and was afraid that his tarnished reputation would damage his business.

“The SST claims that the purpose of its ‘Offender Database’ is to protect the public from harm and help keep offenders accountable. In this case it has done the exact opposite. The magnitude of this error calls the SST’s capabilities into question and raises concerns that the database may have contained other significant errors,” Mr Edwards said.

In response to the Office’s investigation, the SST acknowledged that a mistake was made and took its database down. However, the parties were unable to reach a settlement. The Commissioner will now refer this complaint to the Director of Human Rights Proceedings.

In a settlement with the Director for another privacy case in 2014, the SST agreed to provide relevant personnel with privacy training. The Office understands that the SST provided one person with privacy training, and that person left the SST soon after.

“It’s very disappointing that – having previously been found in breach and agreeing as part of a settlement to improve its compliance – SST has failed to meet its obligations, at the cost of an innocent man’s reputation and peace of mind,” Mr Edwards said.

The Commissioner believes that this highlights the lack of an effective enforcement regime in the Privacy Act. He has decided to publicly name the SST in accordance with the Office’s naming policy to warn the New Zealand public of the Trust’s continuously negligent, cavalier, and dangerous approach to privacy.


More information

We have published a case note which provides a more detailed summary of the case:

Case note 294302 [2018] NZPriv Cmr 6: Sensible Sentencing Trust falsely labels man as paedophile

A copy of the 2014 settlement is available on the SST’s website:

Settlement agreement between the Director of Human Rights Proceedings and the Sensible Sentencing Trust

Read more about our naming policy:

Naming Agencies in Public Reports

For more information, contact Sam Williams:
Phone 021 959 050