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Council blunder sees info on witnesses handed to defendants in anti-social behaviour case

The London Borough of Islington has admitted to a “serious mistake” and a breach of data protection rules after it gave defendants paperwork that identified residents who had complained about anti-social behaviour on an estate.

The council said that it had reported the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Islington had been seeking to tackle problems at Holloway’s Andover estate, where in recent weeks people had been gathering until the early hours and causing a nuisance to residents.

The council said it had received complaints about loud music, the smoking of drugs and verbal abuse. None of the individuals involved were residents of the estate, it added.

Islington prepared the court documents necessary to gain injunctions against the 13 defendants, banning them from the estate.

The process of serving the injunctions began last Friday (20 April). So far the council has served the documents on ten of the 13 individuals.

However, the defendants were also handed additional paperwork they should not have received.

This included a log of all calls reporting anti-social behaviour to the East area housing office in March. The log set out names, phone numbers and street or estate names where they were given by the complainants.

The police have since spoken to six out of the ten defendants and retrieved the documents.

Louise Round, Islington Council's corporate director of resources, said: "This information should not have been released, and we are extremely sorry that, through an error on our part, it has been disclosed.”

Round said the council was in the process of contacting all 51 people on the list to offer its apology and any practical support it could give.

“This includes additional security measures if they request it,” she said. “We're working closely with the police, who are putting extra patrols on the estate to reassure residents and deter any further anti-social behaviour.”

Round said that – in addition to contacting the ICO – the council would, at its Leader’s instruction, hold a detailed review of its administrative processes “to safeguard against this ever happening again”.

She added that Islington was already taking action to tighten its procedures.

The Islington Tribune suggested that some harassment had already taken place, with one witness called a “grass” when out with her children.

The paper reported that Cllr Paul Convery, Labour’s crime chief, had reserved his full anger for the council’s legal department.

He said: “This should not have happened. There has been a lax procedure and security regime.

“These details should not even be on the log, never mind be accessed and photocopied by an absent-minded clerk. In other areas of the Town Hall, such as in child protection, you can’t even log on to the computers.”

Cllr Convery said he was “utterly gobsmacked” by the incident. He added that the co-operation of the public was the only way to tackle anti-social behaviour and Islington would have to do everything it could to restore public confidence.