PIKE RIVER ROYAL COMMISSION RESTATES RULES AROUND
CONFIDENTIALITY OF WITNESS INFORMATION
The Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy is restating the confidentiality provisions that apply to witness statements provided as part of its inquiries, following the unauthorised release of a statement ahead of the Commission’s November hearings.
The Commission receives information from a wide range of sources, and makes it available to people who have been granted “Participant” status on a confidential basis to allow them to take part in the inquiry hearings.
Those people who have access to the information are subject to an implied undertaking that the information obtained is received in confidence, and will be used only for the purposes of the person’s participation in the inquiry.
The information remains confidential until it is made public at a hearing. This allows the information to be tested through cross examination and enables suppression orders to be made in relation to the evidence, if appropriate.
The Commission views the present breach of the confidentiality rules seriously. The premature release of the information not only has the potential to affect the rights of people adversely affected by the evidence, but also to inhibit the Commission’s ability to obtain evidence. Witnesses may be dissuaded from providing statements to the Commission if unauthorised release of the evidence, and comment on it, happens before they appear at a hearing.
The Commission has a process in place to provide media organisations attending the Commission’s hearings with witness statements on an embargoed basis when the witness appears at the hearings.