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Community work for police employee who leaked confidential files that wound up on Facebook

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Community work for police employee who leaked confidential files that wound up on Facebook

The National Intelligence Application holds a wealth of information about millions of New Zealanders. Photo / Peter McIntosh

A police employee who used intelligence software to pry into the lives of people her friend thought were suspicious has been sentenced to 80 hours community work.

Kayla Watson also took photos of four people’s secure police files and sent them to her friend, who then posted them in a Facebook chat group.

Early last year she was acting manager for the crime reporting line in Auckland when her friend contacted her about letterboxes being damaged and residents being harassed in her Massey neighbourhood.

“Dodge house was in our carpark attaching [sic] cars, breaking our letterboxes and fighting again last night,” she said to Watson over text.

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According to the Crown summary of facts supplied to NZME, Watson responded with: “What’s the address, I’ll have a look?” She then logged into the police’s National Intelligence Application (NIA) and searched the address her friend had supplied.

The NIA is a secure police record system used to store information about millions of New Zealanders. It includes flags for firearms licence holders, people known by police to be HIV (Aids) positive, and alerts for paedophiles and convicted murderers.

Access requires a security clearance and its use is audited to ensure employees aren’t misusing it. When new employees are given access, they are warned they can only use it for work purposes and must have a reason for everything they search within the system.

Alerts within the system can be placed on addresses and occupants of that same address can be linked to it.

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Watson clicked on four people associated with the address and then took photos on her phone of their files, which included the last three months of police callouts at the address.

“There is aaaalloooot [sic] against their address,” Watson said in a follow-up message to her friend. “Family violence, disorder, drug searches … the list goes on.”

She then sent the photographs she’d taken of the NIA files to her friend via Facebook messenger. Shortly after, the friend posted the images to a Facebook chat group containing 10 other people within the Massey area.

At least five of them had viewed it before police became aware. The photos were later removed from the group.

Watson’s lawyer, Todd Simmonds, told the court that he was seeking a discharge without conviction for his client and that the consequences for her employment with the police would be significant-enough as a punishment.

“Those consequences would be out of proportion to the overall gravity of what she foolishly did on the morning in question,” he told the court.

Simmonds said that it was likely Watson would be dismissed from the police if she was convicted and rejected the Crown’s submission that the offending had been premeditated.

Crown lawyer Rob MacDonald said that a key part of the offending was the harm Watson had caused to the community and the public’s trust and confidence in police and their ability to keep confidential information a secret.

He argued that there was an element of premeditation in her offending because it was several hours after her friend texted her that she logged onto NIA.

“It gave her several hours to contemplate her actions, it wasn’t knee-jerk offending reacting to events happening at that time,” he told the court this afternoon.

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“This isn’t a street fight that happened in the heat of the moment.”

MacDonald said consequences for Watson were already under way and police would be awaiting the outcome of today’s hearing to see whether she had been convicted.

“This goes to the heart of the defendant’s role at the police and the access that sworn and non-sworn officers have to private information. It’s something the police audit themselves every year as they appreciate the consequences of unauthorised access,” MacDonald said.

Ultimately in the Manukau District Court this afternoon Judge Penelope Ginnen declined to grant Watson a discharge without conviction, but she didn’t agree with the Crown’s view that her offending had been premeditated.

“It is my view there was not a great deal of premeditation, it was a spontaneous decision and you acted on it with too little thought,” she said.

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“Your position in the NZ Police requires a degree of trust to not misuse your position…you’ve breached that trust. You’ve worked for the police for a long time. You know that while things are monitored and audited the very nature of the work means it needs to be a high trust environment.”

Judge Ginnen said it was lucky that the information wasn’t shared further than the chat group.

“In this digital age it just takes a few clicks of a button for information to be distributed around the world.”

Judge Ginnen said Watson’s actions had damaged the police’s integrity, their trust within the community as well as the privacy of the individuals whose photos and files she shared.

“It was an appalling lapse of judgment on your part. But I do take into account that you didn’t do this for personal gain and you didn’t know your friend would share the information with the chat group,” she said.

“But it was a serious thing you did.”

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In sentencing Watson to 80 hours community work Judge Ginnen said she took into account Watson’s early guilty plea, complete lack of criminal history and her otherwise exemplary record during eight years working for the police.

However, the aggravating factors around the breach of privacy and the privileged position Watson was in for having access to the information in NIA meant that she could not escape a conviction.

Watson was placed on restrictive duties after the discovery of the information breach and returned to work within a month.

The police told NZME in an emailed statement that they could not comment on Watson’s case as it was still an active employment investigation.

Since the NIA was introduced in 2001, there have been several instances of police misusing the system, including one sworn police officer who gave information to gangs. Another used it to access information about his Tinder matches.

According to data released to NZME under the Official Information Act, four breaches of the NIA have resulted in criminal charges in the past five years – two of which were uniformed staff and the others were civilians, with Watson being one of those people.

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There are still 20 ongoing investigations into misuses of the NIA, with 13 of those involving sworn constabulary members.

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Facebook Faces Yet Another Outage: Platform Encounters Technical Issues Again

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Facebook Problem Again

Uppdated: It seems that today’s issues with Facebook haven’t affected as many users as the last time. A smaller group of people appears to be impacted this time around, which is a relief compared to the larger incident before. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating for those affected, and hopefully, the issues will be resolved soon by the Facebook team.

Facebook had another problem today (March 20, 2024). According to Downdetector, a website that shows when other websites are not working, many people had trouble using Facebook.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had issues. Just a little while ago, there was another problem that stopped people from using the site. Today, when people tried to use Facebook, it didn’t work like it should. People couldn’t see their friends’ posts, and sometimes the website wouldn’t even load.

Downdetector, which watches out for problems on websites, showed that lots of people were having trouble with Facebook. People from all over the world said they couldn’t use the site, and they were not happy about it.

When websites like Facebook have problems, it affects a lot of people. It’s not just about not being able to see posts or chat with friends. It can also impact businesses that use Facebook to reach customers.

Since Facebook owns Messenger and Instagram, the problems with Facebook also meant that people had trouble using these apps. It made the situation even more frustrating for many users, who rely on these apps to stay connected with others.

During this recent problem, one thing is obvious: the internet is always changing, and even big websites like Facebook can have problems. While people wait for Facebook to fix the issue, it shows us how easily things online can go wrong. It’s a good reminder that we should have backup plans for staying connected online, just in case something like this happens again.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves

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CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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