12 Apr 2013

Online document appears to breach EQC suppression order

2:50 pm on 12 April 2013

A court order preventing the publication of leaked information from the Earthquake Commission appears to have been breached, with details now accessible online.

On Tuesday, the High Court extended an interim injunction preventing the release of EQC information by anyone not authorised to have it.

The court made the order after an anonymous blogger said a disgruntled former employee of the commission had given him details of tens of thousands of claims.

The blogger says he himself has not published the leaked information.

Insurance advocate Bryan Staples who mistakenly received an EQC email containing claims information in March says he deleted that document and has not seen the latest online leak.

He told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme he did not post the information online, has not looked at it and cannot say if it is the same information he received.

University of Canterbury law professor Ursula Cheer says the suppression order may be able to be challenged.

"There is a defence to breach of confidence of public interest, and of course Mr Staples and this blogger are arguing that there is a public interest in people getting this information."

She said it may be that the court addressed the issue of public interest but it is not clear on the basis of the decision.

EQC 'acting prudently'

An insurance partner at law firm Wynn Williams says the Earthquake Commission has the right to protect information that has been leaked online.

Jeremy Johnson told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme the information belongs to EQC and it can use the data how it wants to.

He says the Commission is attempting to manage cases of insured and reinsured properties and is acting in a commercially prudent way.

But Mr Johnson says the EQC could be more responsive in how it deals with homeowners considering the leak.

Police say they have not yet received a complaint from the Earthquake Commission and will assess any action in due course.

The suppression order is to be reviewed by the High Court later in April.