DV victim’s fight after address leaked to abusive ex
A fundraiser has been set up for a domestic violence victim who has been battling against the Queensland Police service for years after her address was allegedly leaked by a senior constable to an abusive ex-husband.
Julie* has moved her family of five twice in three years - first making sure the removalists were not being followed - after the officer allegedly sent her address to her ex-husband, a childhood friend of his, in 2014.
In December 2018, Senior Constable Neil Punchard, 52, was charged with nine counts accessing the Queensland Police Records and Information Management Exchange computer program - known as QPrime - and leaking Julie's information.
Julie's complaint about the privacy breach was passed around between the Queensland Police Service, the Crime and Corruption Commission, Ethical Standards Command and politicians for years, before QPS "substantiated" the complaint.
Julie filed a breach of privacy case against the Queensland Police Service in Brisbane's Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) in 2018.
In March, QCAT Member Susan Gardiner found that the QPS failed to adequately prevent unauthorised access to the QPrime database.
Crown Law, acting on behalf of the QPS, filed an appeal against the decision on April 29.
Julie said her feeling of relief after her complaint was substantiated has turned to being torn with news of the appeal.
"For me, it really was a feeling of 'Thank God it's going to be over,'" she said.
"I've been fighting for so long and hard in what I call an unfair battle because, as a self-represented litigant, I've been up against crown law barristers with 30-plus years' experience and their huge teams of their solicitors."
Julie, is seeking up to $100,000 in compensation to cover some of the costs incurred in both moves, including the installation of security cameras.
"We had to move in 2015 and then again in 2017 because of the breach of my privacy," she said.
"The data was given to someone who had … made serious threats and had (since) been convicted and who is currently on the run. He's out of Australia."
The ex-husband is believed to be in Greece and is wanted on charges of breaching a domestic violence order.
Social justice advocate and author, Renee Eaves, 43, who has previously gone through her own situation with police accessing her information via QPrime, has started an online fundraising account to try to help Julie.
Ms Eaves said although the FundRazr account had a $50,000 goal, she hoped enough would be raised to help cover Julie's legal paperwork lodgement fees and incidentals.
"She … represented herself in QCAT for over a year, after the QLD Police REFUSED to reimburse her for her moving costs, taking legal action for a "breach of privacy" (sic). She was up against a large legal team including Senior Counsel," she wrote.
"In March 2019 she won her case. On the 26 April 2019 - The QLD POLICE (sic) have now appealed the case, causing her family further delay, further stress, further expense and unease.
"She now has to get advice on how to handle an appeal."
According to court documents from the March QCAT hearing, Ms Gardiner found "QPS had no systematic auditing procedures of access to the QPrime system - even for at risk groups such as domestic violence victims".
In her judgement, Ms Gardiner said the level of care expected of police was "justifiably high" in relation to information it holds about domestic violence victims.
The tribunal is now seeking submissions about compensation.
The QPS has tightened access to QPrime since 2016, even preventing members of the public from accessing their own files.
QUEENSLAND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SERVICES
Julie said their home now had "extreme" security measures.
"Where we live is highly secure. I cannot live like a normal person," she said.
"We had to make sure the removalists were not followed. I had to use different names and had to pay in cash, I couldn't leave a trail.
"I'm looking over my shoulder every day."
The mum of three said her children were now thriving, however her two oldest had a distrust of police officers.
Julie said she has read messages of support posted on social media and was very grateful.
NEW SOUTH WALES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SERVICES
"I am overwhelmed with the encouragement and the support from the Australian people," she said.
"I can never express my gratitude for their support. It keeps me going."
Sen Constable Punchard is expected to appear in court in this month.
• Julie is not her real name.