Two further developments in the ACC saga

Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:

Prime Minister was last night dragged into the widening scandal and forced to deny a report he was part of a group of senior National Party figures who backed ’s bid for a $14 million insurance payout. …

TVNZ current affairs programme Close Up last night said it had received a letter written by Sovereign Insurance to former National Party president in 2007.

The letter named 28 people, among them prominent National Party figures including John Key and former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley, as supporters of Ms Pullar as she sought a $14 million payout from the company in relation to injuries she suffered in a 2002 cycling accident.

The claim, Sovereign said in the letter, was “greatly in excess of her entitlement”.

Ms Boag is a long-standing friend of Ms Pullar who supported her during her battle with ACC, including attending a December meeting with ACC which has sparked investigations by the police and the Privacy Commissioner.

In the letter, Sovereign noted, it had been given a list of members of Ms Pullar’s “claimed support/advisory team”.

The list included Sir Selwyn Cushing, Mr Key, Dame Jenny and Dr Wayne Mapp.

Mr Key was at the time the Leader of the Opposition.

He has said he met Ms Pullar when he first entered politics – which was shortly after her accident – but had not had any contact with her since he became National Party leader.

Last night, he issued a statement saying: “I have not been involved in any ‘claims support’ or ‘advisory team’ for Bronwyn Pullar.

“The claim in the letter that I was part of such a team in 2007, or indeed any other time, is wrong.”

I have no doubt that John Key was in no way part of any support group or advisory team. I can only assume that any high profile person who expressed sympathy for Bronwyn’s position, was claimed to be a member of said support group.

It is worth noting that this is a letter from Sovereign, not to Sovereign. Also Sovereign did not say exactly who gave them “the list”. The most benign explanation is that these names were mentioned at a meeting, and Sovereign mis-interpreted their status. A less benign explanation is that this was a seriously bad case of trying to big-note it, and worse not just big-noting it but getting it wrong. Claiming the support of the then Leader of the Opposition when he has done no such thing, is incredibly poor judgement to say the least.

Meanwhile, it was reported that when Ms Pullar emailed Dr Smith’s letter to ACC in support of her claim last year, she did so using software enabling her to track each time it was opened and who it was forwarded to without the knowledge of the email’s recipients.

Internet security expert Peter Gutman, of Auckland University, said such “web bugs” were uncommon.

“Spammers use it on a massive scale, and beyond that it’s used only by security geeks.”

This is is an interesting aspect. My comments are based on the media report, and one can not be conclusive without knowing exactly what software was used, and how it works.

I’m not a lawyer but am fairly familiar with S252 of the Crimes Act as InternetNZ lobbied for it to be passed. It says:

Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years who intentionally accesses, directly or indirectly, any computer system without authorisation, knowing that he or she is not authorised to access that computer system, or being reckless as to whether or not he or she is authorised to access that computer system.

Depending on the software it is arguable that use of such tracking software could be an offence. Of course Outlook also has features where you can get read receipts for your e-mails. But Outlook asks the recipient do they wish to allow a read receipt to be sent.

If receipts of some sort are being forwarded from ACC’s computer system, without their authorisation, that is arguably a form of access. I’m not saying any offence has been committed. I’m saying that depending on the software used, there could be an arguable case.

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