Govt appeal against Dotcom fails to prevent spying lawsuit

Summary:An appeal against a High Court decision, which has allowed Kim Dotcom to sue the New Zealand government for illegally spying on him, has been overturned.

Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom, better known as the founder of Megaupload, has won the right to sue the New Zealand government for illegally spying on him.

In September last year, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key issued a public apology to Dotcom after a report by the nation's Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security confirmed that its security bureau had failed to recognise that he was a permanent resident.

Dotcom's residency status meant that he should have been protected by legislation that makes it illegal for New Zealand residents to be spied on. Chief High Court Judge Justice Helen Winkelmann ruled at the time that Dotcom would be able to seek compensation from the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and the New Zealand Police, a ruling that the Attorney-General took to the New Zealand Court of Appeal.

However, the Court of Appeal has ruled in Dotcom's favour, as first reported by the New Zealand Herald.

The legal counsel for the New Zealand Government made the argument that claims for damages can never be added to judicial review proceedings, and while the appeal judges stated that "it will not usually be appropriate for review proceedings to expand to include claims for compensation", there is no law against it as "there has been no decision creating an absolute rule to that effect".

While a win for Dotcom, he and others that were spied upon may never find out the full extent of what information was collected. The Court of Appeals permitted the New Zealand Government's appeal that it should not have to hand over information on an issue that is now dead. This is due to its security bureau already admitting that it acted illegally, making the intercepted information no longer relevant to determining how any damages may be payable.

"In light of the limited nature of the inquiry required to determine the appropriate level of compensation, there was no reason why full disclosure of all of the material obtained by the unlawful interception undertaken by the GCSB would be necessary," the judgement read.

Topics: Privacy, Legal, New Zealand

About

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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