Former Te Whatu Ora worker Barry Young pleads not guilty to leaking vaccine data

  • 18/12/2023
Barry Young appeared in court on Monday.
Barry Young appeared in court on Monday. Photo credit: Newshub

A 56-year-old man who is accused of leaking large amounts of Te Whatu Ora vaccination data has pleaded not guilty in the Wellington District Court on Monday.  

Barry Young has elected a trial by jury and will next appear in court in February.

Young was cheered on by a large group of supporters when he left court including conspiracy theorist Liz Gunn.  

When asked by Newshub if he regrets what he did, Young said he'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Young was arrested earlier in the month and charged with dishonestly accessing Te Whatu Ora's databases.  

It comes after Te Whatu Ora chief executive Margie Apa said an individual downloaded a large amount of vaccine-related information and published it on an overseas website.   

She said Young, a former staff member at Te Whatu Ora, had no clinical background or experience with vaccine knowledge and appeared to be trying to spread misinformation.  

"Analysis of the released data is ongoing but work so far has not found any National Health Index Numbers or personally identifiable information," Apa said.  

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon confirmed to AM earlier in the month no personal information was spread.    

"As I understand it, it was anonymised data, so it wasn't specific to any particular individuals as such. Health New Zealand, frankly, did a very good job over the weekend working in conjunction with Minister Shane Reti to make sure that they could actually ascertain what had been taken," Luxon said.    

"They put an injunction in place and had data taken down from other sites, which was fantastic. Worked with New Zealand Police, someone was arrested late last night."   

Apa confirmed the data had been taken down from the overseas website and an Employment Relations Authority injunction was preventing it from being published elsewhere.  

"In addition, a police complaint has been laid, an employment investigation is underway, and the person is no longer at work. 

"The individual has worked in the health system for a number of years. He was authorised to access data as part of his work and was locked out of our systems as soon as we became aware of the unauthorised use," Apa said. 

'Very concerning' - Chris Hipkins 

Labour leader Chris Hipkins was asked about the data breach earlier in the month and told media it was "concerning".  

"All government agencies who hold people's personal information do so with a degree of trust from the public and they need to very scrupulously make sure they're protecting that data, so this is very concerning. I'm sure they will need to look at how one person was able to do this in the first place," Hipkins said.  

"But I am pretty concerned about the momentum building behind some of these conspiracy theories."

Hipkins hit out at the new Government saying momentum is growing for conspiracy theorists because of some of their policies.  

"The new Government certainly seem to be giving a bit of a nod to the conspiracy theorist. So things like their reservations about World Health Organization actually putting in place steps to stop future pandemics I think that will embolden the conspiracy theorist," he said.