Data Breaches, Newcastle City Council and Contradictory Control Measures.

Regular readers of the Surmount blog will recall our entry back in November 2017 in relation to the conduct of Newcastle City Council and the poor and concerning manner in which they handle confidential data.

The matter stemmed from a now infamous data breach at the hands of Newcastle City Council which was the result of a bulk email sent in June of 2017 to 77 recipients that led to the disclosure of various personal details such as home addresses, dates of birth and so on of adopting parents and adopted children.

This was subsequently followed mere months later by a second breach in which someone with Newcastle City Council shared a confidential document that highlighted regional businesses that were locations where vulnerable people could be preyed upon.

We assisted in the investigation into this second breach on behalf of one local business wrongly associated and affected by this leak and were staggered to see the lengths to which Newcastle City Council tried to disassociate themselves and deny liability.

This was not our first encounter with investigating Newcastle City Council as some will recall – having represented TWO separate individuals who used the council’s confidential whistleblower service in order to report abuse concerns of staff and customers, only to have their information leaked to the very people they were reporting as abusers and thus come to be victims of campaigns of intimidation and abuse themselves.

Newcastle City Council were completely obstructive towards our investigation into these matters also and once again we were at a loss to see the corruptive lengths some of their departments went to in order to prevent lawful disclosures from accurately occurring.

We’ve assisted all of our clients in all of these cases to report Newcastle City Council to the Local Authority Ombudsmen and the ICO. We’ve supported the sharing of evidence to validate the serious concerns we’ve witnessed by proxy with regards to their methods of confidential data storage and retention, intelligence sharing and Freedom of Information protocols. We’ve provided written statements where requested about our experience(s).

We genuinely had the highest of hopes that the ICO at the very least would deliver the maximum fines and sanctions available – more so to show a reflective respect for all of the victims affected in the adoption scandal. Which is why it is all the more staggering to learn that the ICO have stated because the disclosure in that instance “was the result of human error” they would not take enforcement action.

The ICO bizarrely went on to say that they were “satisfied with the Council’s overall information rights practices” – despite the fact that there was a high volume of concerns raised about Newcastle City Council’s handling of confidential data before the adoption leak scandal and a number of concerns still being raised in its aftermath.

Their judgement is all the more bizarre considering they have fined Gloucestershire Police £80,000 after a bulk email was sent in error that resulted in the identification of non-recent child abuse. Under the new guidelines laid out by The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the enacted Data Protection Act 2018 the maximum penalty for breaches from 25 May 2018 is £17 million pounds (or 4% of an organisation’s global turnover). However, because of the date of the incident the case was dealt with under the provisions and maximum penalties of the Data Protection Act 1998, under which the maximum penalty is £500,000.

Local solicitors, Ben Hoare Bell, are representing nearly 90 clients who are rightfully seeking damages from Newcastle City Council for the distress caused by the data breach and their loss of control of their personal information.

If you or someone you know have been victim of data breaches at the hands of this local authority you could contact Ben Hoare Bell in order to consider your options for compensation or legal action.

If you or someone you know in this situation require support in gathering evidence and putting evidential reports together for the purpose of taking action against Newcastle City Council or any other local authority that has abused the handling of your personal information, contact us today to arrange a free consultation.