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Australia

'Bored' officers might access inmates' private data, CCC hears

A small number of "bored" prison officers might access the private data of prisoners and offenders out of "voyeurism" without any genuine reason to do so, the Queensland Corrective Services commissioner says.

Commissioner Peter Martin APM gave evidence to the Crime and Corruption Commission's first day of hearings into Operation Impala, an investigation into the misuse of private data in the state's biggest public sector agencies.

Queensland Corrective Service officers may access private prisoner data without valid reason to do so.

Queensland Corrective Service officers may access private prisoner data without valid reason to do so.Credit:Greg Henderson Photography

The commissioner admitted one aspect of Corrective Services' submission to the investigation could be read as "making light" of privacy breaches by its staff, noting a paragraph that mentioned "curiosity" as a reason for staff accessing data.

Dr Martin noted there were differing levels of seriousness in privacy breaches, such as a Corrective Services officer accessing a high-profile inmate's information on the QCS computer system out of interest, as opposed to malicious "trawling" of data to set up or harm someone.

But he agreed with CCC counsel assisting Julie Fotheringham that either potential incident could be a criminal matter, and accepted that people had been charged and convicted of accessing personal data without any malicious motivation.

"It is a serious matter, a serious matter and/or criminal, and it is outside any tolerance the organisation has," he said.

Questioned about the levels of access available in the Integrated Offender Management System (IOMS), Dr Martin said certain sections of prisoner data in the system could be flagged so that if they were accessed, an immediate alert would be sent to a senior manager.

QCS handled sensitive information for about 9000 prisoners and 21,000 offenders out in the community, he told the hearing.

Biometric data was part of that information, including the biometric data of visitors to Queensland corrective facilities.

Dr Martin joined QCS about two years ago after more than 30 years in the Queensland Police Service.

"I believe the vast majority of our QCS staff are very good and decent people … generally striving to do the right thing," he said.

"We’re a good organisation, but not a perfect organisation.

"There are a very small cadre of officers who will not meet my expectations, and since I became commissioner in 2017 I’ve been very explicit about my expectations."

The hearing, overseen by CCC chairman Alan MacSporran QC, also touched on recommendations still to be implemented by the QCS from the corruption watchdog's earlier investigation into corruption in prisons, Taskforce Flaxton.

Dr Martin noted some recommendations were taking time to implement owing to the need for recruitment and staffing, such as an "integrity testing regime" to support the investigation of people suspected of corrupt conduct.

Another recommendation called for the Integrated Offender Management System to be replaced with a system that met recommended standards.

Dr Martin said replacing that system "won't be in the short term" as it was a statewide system that had complex links to other departments including the health system, QPS and Child Safety.

The hearing continues.

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