Request for a report about the escape of a psychiatric patient from a secure forensic unit

Official Information Act 1982
Section 9
Legislation display text:
Official Information Act 1982, ss 9(2)(a), 9(2)(ba)(i)
District Health Board
Sir Brian Elwood
Case number(s):
Issue date:

Request for report prepared by Capital and Coast District Health Board after escape by psychiatric patient from the secure forensic unit—information withheld—clinical information about patient protected—public interest identified in accountability of CCDHB for escape and steps taken to prevent future escapes—short statement released

A journalist requested the internal report produced by Capital and Coast District Health Board after a psychiatric patient had escaped from the secure forensic unit of Porirua Hospital. He explained in his request that he was not seeking personal information about the patient, but that his focus was on the accountability issues arising as a result of the escape.

The report detailed the circumstances of the escape as well as information about the patient’s personal views, personal affairs, medical history and family relationships, much of which had been obtained during the patient’s clinical treatment. The Board was concerned that releasing the report would breach the privacy of the patient and his family. There was also a concern that irreparable damage could be done to the relationship of trust and confidence that existed between the patient and his clinician, thus hindering his medical treatment. The Board considered that its release of a brief press statement satisfied any public interest in its accountability for the patient’s escape. It withheld the report in full in reliance upon sections 9(2)(a) and 9(2)(ba)(i) of the OIA.

After considering the Board’s comments and studying the information at issue, it was accepted that section 9(2)(a) applied to that information which discussed the patient’s personal views, relationships and medical history. It was also considered that section 9(2)(ba)(i) applied to the extent that the report contained information imparted by the patient to his clinicians in the context of a doctor-patient relationship.

However, the report also discussed how the escape had occurred and the actions that would be taken by the Board as a result. The view was that there was a public interest issue in terms of section 9(1) of the OIA that had not been satisfied by the Board’s media release. Subsequently, the Board agreed to release a short statement which described the events leading up to the patient’s escape and provided a comprehensive summary of the report’s recommendations.

The requester was satisfied with the release of this statement.

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.

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