23 Nov 2009

Police defend contacting drink-driver's employer

11:01 am on 23 November 2009

Police are standing their ground after being accused of tipping off an employer about a drink-driving conviction.

They say they make no apology for their commitment to public safety.

The case arose when a flight attendant working for Air New Zealand was breath-tested on her way to work after drinking the night before.

The woman was found to be over the legal limit and contacted her employer to say she would not be at work that day.

Her union, the EPMU, discovered a police email inviting Air New Zealand to seek more detail under the Official Information Act.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says police acted improperly in contacting Air New Zealand two weeks after the woman was breath-tested, and it creates a dangerous precedent that could threaten the privacy and job security of many workers.

Police say the disclosure of information was not done lightly and they have a responsibility for public safety.

However, EPMU national secretary Andrew Little told Morning Report says there was no public issue at stake and the union will lay complaints with the Ombudsman, the Police Complaints Authority and the Privacy Commissioner on Monday.

Air New Zealand will not discuss particular cases, but says it has used the Official Information Act on drink-driving cases twice before.