Bennett and Queensland Corrective Services Commission
(1994 S0136, 1 December 1995)
The applicant sought access to the parole conditions of a prisoner whom he alleged had engaged in fraudulent activity while on parole. The applicant sought to establish whether the parolee's conduct breached the parole conditions. The parolee was invited to participate in the external review, but did not respond. The applicant did not wish to obtain access to the standard conditions imposed under the Corrective Services Act 1988 Qld, but only to special conditions imposed on the individual parolee. The Information Commissioner examined the legislative system concerning parole orders, noting that parole orders are not made public but are only distributed on a limited basis within the corrective services system. The Information Commissioner concluded that the special parole conditions were exempt under s.44(1) (the personal affairs exemption), as they concerned the personal affairs of the parolee and, in this case, the public interest in disclosure of the conditions did not outweigh the prima facie public interest in protection of the parolee's privacy.
The Information Commissioner noted that there may be instances where the public interest in disclosure of particular parole conditions would outweigh the prima facie exempt status of such matter. The Information Commissioner gave as a possible example, a case where a victim of crime is fearful of the perpetrator's release from prison, and wishes to establish what, if any, parole conditions have been made affecting the perpetrator's potential contact with the victim.
The Information Commissioner noted that there is a public interest favouring disclosure of parole conditions in order to enhance the accountability of Community Corrections Boards for decisions relating to parole conditions. However, the Information Commissioner determined that disclosure of the conditions in issue in this case would not significantly enhance that accountability. In addition to the public interest in protecting the privacy of the parolee, the Information Commissioner referred to the public interest in achieving the objectives of the parole system, i.e., to foster the rehabilitation of prisoners without unnecessary or demeaning exposure of the prisoner's status as a parolee. The Information Commissioner determined that the balance of the public interest lay in favour of non-disclosure. The Information Commissioner noted that if the applicant was concerned that the parolee may have breached parole conditions, he could make a complaint to the police or the parole authorities.