The New Zealand High Court has ordered the police to inspect all digital information illegally seized last year from Kim Dotcom’s mansion, and return everything not directly related to the ongoing prosecution. The judge further ruled that the FBI must ship back cloned drives that were sent to them, and destroy all copies the U.S. Government has archived.
Last year the search warrants used by police to raid the New Zealand home of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom were ruled to be overbroad and illegal.
In addition, cloned copies of Dotcom’s hard drives sent to the FBI were deemed to have been unlawfully obtained.
After the ruling Dotcom’s legal team asked the court to order the return of Dotcom’s personal belongings, and in a ruling today Judge Helen Winkelmann did just that.
New Zealand police are now required to go through all illegally seized evidence to determine what is relevant to the ongoing prosecution, and to return the rest.
In her ruling Judge Winkelmann rejected the argument that the police made only a minor mistake resulting from a technical error in the FBI-requested seizure.
“The deficiencies in the warrants and, as a consequence, the searches, were more than merely technical,” she said. “The defects in the warrants were such that the warrants were nullities.”
“The warrants could not authorize the permanent seizure of hard drives and digital materials against the possibility that they might contain relevant material, with no obligation to check them for relevance,” Winkelmann added.
In addition the Judge notes that the warrants did not permit the police to ship the 150 terabytes of data to the FBI.
“They could not authorize the shipping offshore of those hard drives with no check to see if they contained relevant material. Nor could they authorize keeping the plaintiffs out of their own information, including information irrelevant to the offenses.”
The cloned drives holding personal information must therefore be returned and any copies in the FBI’s possession must be destroyed.
Today’s High Court decision is yet another blow to the prosecution, while the Dotcom team can chalk up another win.