19 Feb 2013

Tonga police say 172 records unlawfully cleared

3:35 pm on 19 February 2013

A total of 172 former criminals in Tonga have had their records wiped by police officers over a ten-year period to 2011.

The police commissioner, Grant O'Fee, says this has been revealed through a manual search of all police records and shows the practice was much more widespread than thought after the Kele'a newspaper broke the story early this month.

The former criminals had wanted their records cleared to allow them to apply for visas for overseas travel.

He says he can't give guarantees it will not happen again but he has systems in place to make it as foolproof as possible.

"We've put new locks on doors, we are in the throes of replacing filing cabinets and ensuring that it is physically locked away. The staff - the young staff that work in that office are very good people - and I am working very, very closely with the New Zealand and the Australian High Commissions to ensure that they get all the information that I have got. I have done everything that is humanly possible to ensure it does not happen again, but I am not going to use the word guarantee."

Tonga's police commissioner, Grant O'Fee