Victoria Police has blamed an ‘IT error’ for making transcripts of confidential conversations between lawyers and clients accessible to their investigators.
Last week, Victoria Police’s head of covert services division Detective Acting Superintendent Damian Jackson admitted to the privacy breach in a statement given to the Victoria Bar Association, as first reported by The Age.
“Victoria Police has become aware that, due to an inadvertent IT error, call summaries that had been prepared of communications intercepted under a number of telecommunications interception warrants, and which it had identified as containing communications subject to legal professional privilege, had been inadvertently made accessible to investigators,” he wrote.
This is a big deal.
One of the cornerstones of the legal system is that conversations between lawyers and their clients are confidential. This is so an individual can discuss how to defend themselves freely.
If private conversations between these two parties were recorded and accessed by police, it threatens the idea of a fair trial.
According to Victoria Police, this all happened because a mistake with its internal file management systems made data accessible to more people than should have had access.
When conversations are lawfully recorded by police — by say a wiretap or some other recording method — they’re made inaccessible if they contain privileged information, like legal advice.
What the Police claim happened was that summaries of these private conversations were made accessible to investigators when they were “inadvertently” exported to the part of the database where they could be viewed by investigators.
Victoria Police (who do like to collect data) say that there’s “no evidence” any of this information was accessed by investigators.
“As a result of those enquiries, the review team found no evidence that LPP call summaries had been used by investigators to further an investigation,” wrote Jackson.
But even still, Victoria’s Independent Broadbased Anti-Corruption Commission has indicated they will investigate the matter.