Legal row over ACC blogger

This article appeared on the Stuff website on Sunday the 15th, 2012.


A senior medical officer in ACC’s sensitive claims unit has made legal threats to a blogger who posted information about his employment history, in the wake of a mass privacy breach.

Peter Dodwell, the branch medical advisor of the unit that deals with rape and abuse victims, was fired from his previous job in Australia over a privacy issue.

Both Dodwell and ACC’s senior medical advisor, Peter Jansen, have threatened legal action against blogger Kyle Macdonald, a psychotherapist who regularly speaks out against the corporation.

The revelations come as the Auditor General prepares to investigate ACC’s governance, adding to an inquiry by the Privacy Commissioner into a breach that saw 6000 patient files – including 131 from the sensitive claims unit – released to claimant Bronwyn Pullar.

Documents show that in March 2008 Dodwell was sacked from his role as chief medical officer at HealthQuest, the medical screening body for all public servants in Australia, after an internal investigation into his behaviour.

The investigator, former NSW Police Deputy Commissioner David Madden, found Dodwell had inappropriately passed on information to the Education Department about a teacher it intended employing, saying she was being investigated by police for defamatory website postings about him.

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, there was no evidence the teacher was being investigated by police.

Madden said Dodwell passed on the information in an attempt to adversely influence the department’s decision to employ her.

”The way in which he [ Dodwell] went about informing the Department of Education was inappropriate and not reasonable behaviour of a public official,” the report said.

Madden said the teacher had no opportunity to defend herself against Dodwell’s claims, and he should be disciplined for breaching privacy restrictions. He was later fired.

After Mr MacDonald posted a link to the SMH story, and an opinion of its contents on his blog, he received a letter from Dodwell’s lawyer requesting parts be changed or removed because they were defamatory.

The letter was similar to one MacDonald received from Jansen in 2010 about a defamatory blog post and tweet, which he removed for fear of legal action.

Jansen was the senior ACC manager at the centre of another defamation case last year, involving a blogger who was also claimant of the Sensitive Claims Unit.

The blogger, known as Jax, was under the police witness protection programme for sexual abuse at the time, and alleged her ACC file had been accessed by someone within ACC in order to find her contact details.

MacDonald said the threats against him, in his view, were another example of how ACC bullied critics and ”whistleblowers” who had genuine concerns about the organisation.

Dodwell was hired to provide expert opinion about claims and treatment decisions, he said.

”I thought the information should be in the public domain, given someone with that kind of history is in a clinical role. The reality is that it’s a political position, so the public have a right to express their views.”

MacDonald said the fact Dodwell had a history with privacy issues was important given the recent breach and his role in sensitive claims.

”Privacy is important for people with a sensitive claim. Lack of it can cause emotional harm, but it can also be dangerous for people who are in hiding because of sexual abuse,” he said.

In a statement, an ACC spokeswoman said: ”The importance of confidentiality is vital to the good faith employment relationships between ACC and it’s staff. Consequently it would be inappropriate for ACC to comment on any individuals employment matters.”’

But ACC said that Dodwell had provided a complete CV to ACC when he applied for the job.

Dodwell himself said he disclosed, directly to his ACC manager, details of the matter that led to his dismissal in Australia.

As for the legal action, ACC said it had no role when an employee ”acting independently or out of personal motives” initiated legal communications, proceedings or actions with an external party.

Dodwell argued there was no legal action ”either taken or threatened”.

”The letter acquainted Mr McDonald with inaccuracies in his article, and invited him either to remove certain specified passages or to amend his article to reflect the true situation,” he said.

Jansen said the material on McDonald’s blog ”seriously defamed” him. He wouldn’t answer a question asking if he thought his actions were appropriate.


– © Fairfax NZ News

Leave a Comment

  • David Wadsworth April 15, 2012, 9:59 pm

    If Dr Dodwell was the best candidate for the job then I wonder what the other applicants like?

  • Robyn April 15, 2012, 10:44 pm

    Well, he is a member of the Aerospace Human Factors Association so I guess that would make him closer to God.

  • Lesley Atkinson April 15, 2012, 11:12 pm

    Dear Kyle
    I applaud your courage.

  • Lue April 16, 2012, 9:43 am

    Interesting how much attention the two medical advisors have given to your website blog!
    As the saying goes ‘he who protests too much’…..

  • kea April 16, 2012, 1:04 pm

    Looks like his credentials perfectly match ACC’s required list of Job Competencies for Senior Positions; that fit in with it’s well developed seedy culture – very cute!

  • Helen April 16, 2012, 5:56 pm

    Thankyou Kyle for your courage in bringing these issues to the fore and thereby putting yourself in the firing line. Much respect.

  • Bob Stevens April 17, 2012, 5:16 am

    The truth hurts only those with something to hide others are just embarrassed by their errors of judgment and most of us share that to some degree. I agree with Lue, `he who protests too much ….’

  • Nancy Peterson April 17, 2012, 10:53 am

    You are doing such a good job. It takes courage. Thank you.

  • Eileen Spence April 17, 2012, 6:53 pm

    Thank you for continuing to speak for those who have lost their voice.

  • Susan Hawthorne April 18, 2012, 11:45 am

    What a thankless yet necessary task you continue to do on our collective behalf Kyle. Once more you are being subjected to bullying for exposing the truth about ACC managerment. Kia kaha, you are not alone yet it must feel that way at times.

  • Unicorn April 18, 2012, 4:12 pm

    Yes Go for it!

    They will just compound their shadiness and downright underhandedness, by complaining that their employment history is exposed. Oh dear, how sad, nevermind. About time they got their comeuppance. Well said Bob Stevens et al 🙂 I quite enjoy watching them squirm.

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