Southern police have unwittingly disclosed sensitive
information about a major drug bust, but say it has not
compromised the privacy or safety of those involved.
Southern area commander Inspector Lane Todd yesterday
confirmed police had given censored information to Operation
Canary defendants, through legal disclosure ''which did not
in part follow the normal process''.
Those accused of offences in relation to Operation Canary - a
multimillion-dollar cannabis bust targeting large-scale
commercial growers in Queenstown and Southland - had asked
for disclosure through the court.
They were provided with documents in a digital format, and as
such were able to uncover the parts police had tried to
Insp Todd said, while the ''appropriate and proper
redaction'' (editing) was made to documents, it appeared the
correct process was not followed in relation to how the
documents were provided to defence lawyers.
''The process is that, in disclosures of this kind, a paper
hard copy should be provided instead of an electronic copy.
This did not happen in this instance,'' he said.
''While we do not believe that the privacy or safety of any
individual has been compromised, police are taking this very
seriously and an investigation is currently ongoing,'' Insp
He would not comment on whether information about police
informants had been accidentally made available to those
facing charges as a result of the mishap, or whether the
prosecution case had been compromised.
''Given this matter is still before the court, police are
unable to discuss specifics in relation to what information
was disclosed,'' he said.
Security of information was central to every aspect of police
work and there were robust processes in place to protect
information held by police, Insp Todd said.
''We believe this to be an isolated case. Once we have
established the full facts of what happened we will obviously
act on any learnings,'' he said.
A police spokeswoman yesterday said no further comment would
be made in relation to the blunder ''at this time''.
Five men charged in relation to Operation Canary appeared in
the Invercargill and Queenstown District Courts last year.
They are Invercargill accountant David Christopher Payne
(42), Mossburn resident Brodie Raymond Anderson (23), Arthurs
Point resident Brian Anthony McCarthy (62), Glenorchy
resident Andrew John Grant (48) and a 55-year-old Queenstown
man, who was granted name suppression.
Collectively, they face more than 100 charges, including the
possession and cultivation of cannabis for sale.
Police alleged the accused were part of a crime syndicate
which had grown more than 1000 cannabis plants over a period
of years, with a conservative estimate yield of 181kg of
cannabis worth about $4.5 million.
About $1.8 million in assets, including three properties, a
boat and two cars, were seized by police as part of the