Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The tip of a very large iceberg ...admission of criminality by council leader

This is the first of many councils to fall from breaching the Data Protection principles. They have a legal duty to be transparent about why they want your data, what they intend doing with it and who they want to share it with.

The saving grace, if there is one in this instance, is the full and frank admission that the council are guilty of a criminal act and that an investigation is being launched immediately. however, there are panic stations in other councils who have failed to register parking enforcement as a purpose. We have captured the registration details of every council. Now let's watch as panic ensues. Perhaps now the penny will drop for all authorities, Government departments and politicians that there are dire consequences for failure to regulate or heed the concerns that have been raised by many over the years. In the coming weeks we will release details of the criminal investigations now launched in a number of areas that will change the face of the 'parking industry.'

BRENTWOOD: Oops they've done it again
Brentwood Gazette
Wednesday, February 10, 2010, 11:55

PARKING fines, benefit claims and planning applications are all being processed unlawfully by Brentwood Borough Council in yet another act of incompetence that could cost the authority thousands of pounds.

The Gazette can reveal that our bungling council has committed a criminal offence – and could face prosecution – by failing to renew its registration with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) Data Protection Public Register.

This means the council could be forced to rescind parking fines, CCTV images may be unusable in courts and planning applications, various licences, benefits, council tax and housing bills are all being unlawfully processed, which could render them invalid.

These latest shocking revelations – in which Brentwood is one of only two councils in the country without a data controller registration – comes as the authority tries to recover from embarrassing revelations, including damning verdicts on the council's accounts and extravagant pay-offs to outgoing Town Hall chiefs.

But what's worse, the council were blissfully unaware their registration had lapsed and they were in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 until the Gazette got in touch this week.

Brentwood Borough Council leader, Louise McKinlay said: "This is totally unacceptable as far as I'm concerned.
"As soon as officers made me aware I instructed that an internal investigation be carried out, and this is underway now.
"I am getting legal advice on the full implications of this officer oversight and will be making sure that processes are in place for this to never happen again."

A spokesman for the Motorists' Legal Challenge Fund, Neil Herron, said they had already made an official complaint to the ICO and warned that Brentwood council should not be processing any data regarding its 70,000 residents.

He added: "Local authorities punish the most minor of trivialities – such as overstaying parking limits by just a few minutes or being inches over a white line – but obviously they need to get their own house in order first.
"It is a criminal offence to process any personal data without being registered. They would have been sent a reminder both three months and then one month before it lapsed."

He added: "Anyone who has received a penalty charge notice whilst the council has not been registered would be perfectly within their rights to request that the PCN is rescinded, and should the council fail to do so, then raise a complaint with the Information Commissioner."

A spokesman from the ICO confirmed the council faced prosecution if they did not renew and the maximum penalty was £5,000 at magistrates' court or an unlimited fine at crown court.
She said: "Under the Data Protection Act organisations that process personal information have a statutory requirement to notify the ICO that they are a data controller. Failure to do so is a criminal offence."

Cllr Louise McKinlay said the council will be re-registering.

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