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New law needed for police vetting: review

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 27/10/2016

A new law should be put in place to oversee the actions of the police vetting service, a review report recommends.

The recommendation is one of 17 put forward by the Privacy Commissioner and the Independent Police Conduct Authority after police sought a review of the service that carries out about 500,000 checks on Kiwis each year.

It says since it was established 16 years ago the service has developed in an ad hoc way as more pre-employment or pre-registration checks were required, such as "fit and proper person" checks.

Because no one law oversaw the vetting service there was a uncertainty over what information could be considered relevant to the checks.

It says problems arise when police hold information that doesn't relate to criminal offending, or that hasn't been tested by a court and which may be prejudicial to the individual being vetted.

Police hold information which includes any interactions people may have had with police, including as a victim or witness.

Authority chairman Sir David Carruthers and Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said giving the service a legal framework will help align it with international best practice.

"Legislation that provides clarity as to the legal basis for vetting, as well as protections for vulnerable people, is required," they said.

The review said clarity was needed around safety checks which were the result of the Vulnerable Children Act, passed in 2014.

"This work is important in ensuring that those working with children and other vulnerable people do not pose a risk to them."

Among the other recommendations was a requirement that individuals subject to a check, on an application by someone else, had given their consent.

Check subjects should also be given a chance to comment on information, and police should stop differentiating between private sector and government agencies regarding the release of suppressed information.

It said despite police taking steps to address a number of issues, the review had identified more that were needed.

"We consider there is still a need to develop a more comprehensive and coherent set of guidelines and procedures to support consistent decision-making about what information to release as part of a vet."

Police said some of the steps it was taking included working with approved agencies to ensure they were entitled to do so.

"More changes need to be made to strengthen the efficiency and integrity of police vetting," Superintendent Steve Kehoe.

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