WLN and Department of Police
WLN and Queensland Police Service
(2000 S0319, 21 February 2002)
The applicant sought access to a tape recorded interview with her son in relation to allegations of sexual abuse, and a Crime Report relating to allegations of stalking and burglary. Although much of the matter in issue concerned the applicant, the bulk of the matter in issue also concerned the personal affairs of the applicant’s son, or of the complainant in the stalking and burglary matter, and hence was prima facie exempt from disclosure to the applicant under s.44(1) of the FOI Act, subject to the application of the public interest balancing test incorporated in s.44(1). In that regard, it was necessary to weigh the public interest considerations for and against disclosure.
The Assistant Information Commissioner recognised the public interest in enhancing the accountability of the QPS for the way in which it investigates alleged offences, and whether the decision to conduct such investigations was properly based. He also recognised the public interest in people who are the subject of adverse comments in agency files having access to that information.
The QPS had interviewed the applicant in relation to the allegations of stalking and burglary, and informed her of the allegations made by the complainant. This significantly reduced the privacy interests of the complainant, as against the applicant. Deletion of names and other personal details afforded some protection to the privacy interests of the complainant, while assisting the applicant to understand the basis on which the QPS decided to investigate the allegations and the steps taken to do so. The Assistant Information Commissioner was satisfied that disclosure of the Crime Report (subject to deletion of personal affairs details) was, on balance, in the public interest.
In relation to the audio tape of the interview with the applicant's son, he recognised an additional public interest in a parent having access to information about the manner in which their child has been interviewed. However, nothing on the tape suggested that the conduct of the interview was inappropriate in any way. The child made no disclosures and the audio tape did not contain any adverse information about the applicant.
Although the applicant argued that her son wanted her to have access to the tape, children have recognised privacy interests that are separate from those of their parents. Those privacy interests are substantial where the allegations relate to intensely personal and sensitive matters such as alleged sexual abuse. There is also a recognised public interest in safeguarding the flow of information to law enforcement agencies. There is a real prospect that children would be less inclined to assist police with their investigations if they thought information might be released where a decision was made not to prosecute.
The applicant had been given access to information about the allegations and the QPS investigation. No action was taken against the applicant. The Assistant Information Commissioner was satisfied that the public interest considerations favouring disclosure of the tape to the applicant did not outweigh the public interest considerations favouring nondisclosure, and decided that the tape was exempt matter under s.44(1) of the FOI Act.