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This article was published 22/9/2017 (854 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In a first-of-its-kind court case in Manitoba, a former provincial government employee has been fined $7,500 for illegally snooping into private health records.
The 58-year-old man, a retired, 25-year member of the Winnipeg Police Service whom the Free Press is not naming to protect the identity of the victim, accessed his estranged daughter’s health information without permission.
Provincial court Judge Cynthia Devine convicted the man of violating the Personal Health Information Act after a one-day trial in May.
On Friday, she had to decide the penalty.
The maximum fine is $50,000, and the Crown had asked the judge to order him to pay $10,000.
The man’s lawyer, Gene Zazelenchuk, said his client was acting out of concern and should be let off with a reprimand or a discharge.
"It wasn’t done for gain and it wasn’t done for a nefarious purpose. It was done out of parental concern, plain and simple," Zazelenchuk said.
A financial penalty was necessary, the judge decided.
She said it should serve as a warning to other government employees who have access to people’s personal health information and a duty not to violate their privacy.
Any breach under the Personal Health Information Act is serious, Devine said, noting the man’s history as a decorated police officer for more than two decades meant he should have known better.
"He’s an individual who knew very well how important it was to comply with the law generally, and this law in particular, and the need for privacy," Devine said.
"This was a well-trained, well-equipped individual who knew better."
The accused, who works in security after resigning from his government position, was an auditor for Manitoba Health when he accessed his daughter’s health information once in April 2014, three days after she made it clear to him she did not want him in her life.
Their relationship had been strained and was almost "non-existent," the judge said.
During the trial, court heard the accused improperly searched databases that showed the medical claims history for patients — databases kept by Manitoba Health in order to monitor the billing practices of physicians and pharmacies for inconsistencies or fraud.
He found details of a hospital stay from years earlier his daughter had kept as one of her "closest-guarded secrets."
Manitoba Health notified the victim of the breach of her personal health information in November 2014, about two weeks before the accused sent an email to extended family members — some of whom his daughter didn’t know, she testified — that contained information he gleaned from the records.
The victim launched a complaint with the Manitoba ombudsman, which resulted in the charge.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
Updated on Saturday, September 23, 2017 at 7:49 AM CDT: Edited