Request for adult daughter’s ACC file
Section 9(2)(a) OIA applied—in the absence of consent withholding was necessary to protect the daughter’s privacy—no public interest override
A father complained to the Ombudsman when ACC withheld his adult daughter’s file under section 9(2)(a) of the Official Information Act (OIA), in order to protect her privacy. He noted that he had previously acted on behalf of his daughter with ACC, and that until 2004, ACC had provided him with information about his daughter’s claim. This information had gone missing and he wanted to obtain replacement copies.
Section 9(2)(a) of the OIA provides good reason for withholding (subject to a public interest test) where it is necessary to protect the privacy of natural persons.
The daughter was 25 and had cerebral palsy. She required a wheelchair for mobility, and 24-hour assistance from a caregiver. She was able to understand what was said to her, but faced some communication difficulties as a result of her condition.
It was clear that the daughter’s ACC file consisted of personal information about her. While the father had received information from that file prior to 2004, he no longer had access to that information, and he had not seen any information from the file since.
It was relevant that both parents would have been the daughter’s legal guardian before she turned 20. In that capacity, the father arguably had a greater entitlement to obtain personal information about his daughter.
The daughter was now an adult who was entitled to have her views taken into consideration. The prior disclosure to the father when he was his daughter’s legal guardian and acting on her behalf did not diminish her interest in being able to control who had access to her personal information now.
The Privacy Commissioner agreed that there was a high privacy interest in the information, and the daughter was entitled to decide whether she wanted her father to access it.
In the absence of the daughter’s consent, the Ombudsman concluded that ACC had good reason to withhold the file in order to protect her privacy.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.