Saturday, April 27, 2013

Software pirates: An Australian police force

NSW Police incurred a $1.8 million legal bill defending itself against a multinational software company that sued for wide-scale copyright piracy, figures obtained under government information access laws show.

Software company Micro Focus alleged in 2011 that the NSW Police Force, Ombudsman, Police Integrity Commission, Corrective Services and other government agencies illegally used its ViewNow software, which is used to access the intelligence database known as COPS.

The company alleged police and other agencies were using 16,500 copies of its software on various computers when police were only ever entitled to 6500 licences. The group initially alleged $10 million in damages but later increased this to $12 million after reviewing the results of a court-ordered, $120,000 KPMG audit of the NSW Police Force's computer systems.

The police force maintained during the court proceedings that it had paid for a site licence that entitled it to unlimited installations of the software for all of its officers.

Despite this, it settled the matter out of court last year for an undisclosed sum. The other agencies previously settled the matter out of court, also for undisclosed sums.

No internal documents were handed over to Fairfax Media as part of its government information access request.

Darren Brand, Senior Sergeant co-ordinator at the NSW Police information access and subpoena unit, denied a request for documents relating to how much was paid to Micro Focus as part of the settlement, and why the matter was settled out of court.

Mr Brand did however divulge that no one was sacked as a result of the legal action by Micro Focus and the legal costs for the case totalled $1,829,709.29.

''To put these costs in context, Micro Focus has claimed as much as $12 million in damages,'' he said.

Mr Brand said there was a stronger public interest against releasing all of the information requested. He said it would ''breach'' the NSW Police Force's obligation to maintain the confidential terms of the settlement.

Mr Brand also believed the release of that information ''could result in further legal action against [the police force], which would incur further expenditure of government funds''.

But Sydney piracy investigator Michael Speck said it "beggars belief" that the NSW Police Force had continued to pursue the case even after all other government agencies had settled.

"One can only assume [the police force's settlement] was motivated by ready access to the public purse," Mr Speck said.

"They have settled the case after fiercely resisting it on commercial terms that include the settlement being confidential. You'd have to wonder how the confidential settlement sits with the obligation that police have to properly investigate and report on alleged misconduct."

Mr Speck said the public deserved to know if police had properly investigated the matter internally, if they had taken steps to ensure something like the matter never happened again, and if action would be taken against the individual who allegedly set it on the path of software piracy

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Australian woman says police assaulted her at home after call to counselling service

A 60-YEAR-OLD woman who claims police officers burst into her Erindale home and assaulted her after she rang a counselling service has lodged an official complaint with the Police Ombudsman.

Denyse, who did not want her surname published, alleges she was physically assaulted, verbally abused and forced to urinate on the floor when five officers attended her eastern-suburbs house on the morning of April 9.

Police confirmed that officers had attended the home and the Ombudsman was now investigating Denyse's complaint.

"SAPOL cannot, and will not, make comment on the nature of the investigation or allegations," an SA Police statement said.

Denyse said the "nightmare" incident happened after she rang a sexual assault counselling service and an apparent misunderstanding led to police being dispatched to check on her welfare.

She alleged she was sexually assaulted more than a month ago, but has provided The Advertiser with written consent to identify her so she can seek justice.

Denyse said she had never before spoken with the counsellor she dealt with on April 9 and believed the person may have misinterpreted her distress as a threat to harm herself.

She alleged she was doing housework when two male police officers burst through her front door and jumped on her without identifying themselves or explaining why they were there.

"I was washing the floors and the next minute someone jumped on me. I thought it was a home invasion," she said. "They started beating me up, they started belting me. I screamed and I screamed."

Over the next two hours, during which five police officers - four males and one female - were in her house, Denyse alleged police:

TOLD her she was not allowed to phone her husband and had no rights.

PREVENTED her from going to the toilet and forced her to urinate where she lay.

KICKED her in the hip, hit her in the face, twisted her arms and pushed her to the floor.

CONFISCATED her mobile phone, which was only made apparent when her husband Andrew recognised its ringtone and an officer took it out of his pocket.

Andrew said he arrived home about 90 minutes after police entered the home. "I'm not sure why it takes so many people to subdue a 60-year-old woman," he said.

Royal Adelaide Hospital notes provided to The Advertiser detail bruising on Denyse's arms and determined there was no evidence of psychosis.

Victims' Rights Commissioner Michael O'Connell said police management of cases such as this could be complex, but "all citizens have fundamental rights that should be at the forefront of police interventions".

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vic. police hiding behind secrecy to cover up their failings

TRIPLE-0 emergency call data used to help expose under-reporting of violent crimes by Victoria Police is now being hidden from the public.

The Herald Sun revealed last year that police were sent to 25,000 more assaults in Melbourne and Geelong by triple-0 dispatchers in 2010-11 than were recorded in Victoria Police crime figures.

When fresh data was sought by the Herald Sun, the Emergency Services Telecommunication Authority, which operates the system, said information on incidents that police were sent to, including assaults, brawls, domestic arguments and neighbourhood disputes, could no longer be released.

Police Minister Kim Wells promised new laws to end the secrecy after being contacted by the Herald Sun.

The State Ombudsman had repeatedly urged the force to make greater use of triple-0 data since finding in 2009 that police had abused recording procedures to improve crime clearance rates.

CEO Ken Shymanski said ESTA recognised the legitimacy of the public interest in the information and "would prefer to have a capacity to share generalised information about call-taking and dispatch", but had been advised this was no longer possible.

Mr Shymanski said ESTA had sought legal guidance as to its obligations late last year following an information request from a member of the public. He said that advice cast doubt on the legality of past releases.

"In short, ESTA must not publicly release 'any information' relating to calls received or messages communicated by the authority in the course of providing emergency services."

ESTA declined to release the legal advice.

Mr Wells said the secrecy was an unintended consequence of strict privacy provisions included in the ESTA Act when it was introduced by the former Labor government in 2004. "We will amend the legislation to strike a better balance between the public's right to know how the service is performing and the need to protect the privacy of Victorians who have used the ESTA service."

In February, Victoria Police said it would launch an external review of the way it collected data on assaults after the Herald Sun revealed the Australian Bureau of Statistics' victim survey had put the number of assaults in Victoria in 2011-12 at 588,600 - 14 times the 42,076 recorded by police.