Published: 11 May, 2012
• THE Tribune has produced some excellent reporting on the alarming leak of witnesses’ personal information to suspected troublemakers (Data leak witnesses: ‘We’ll sue’, May 4).
One can easily imagine that the staff member who did this was simply having “a bad day at the office” and that the leak was completely accidental.
Nevertheless, 51 families have to deal with the possible consequences.
Even if there were no direct consequences, and your report suggests otherwise, with children being picked on and abused, one can only imagine the absolute worry the families must be going through.
One has to admire the courage that led them to bringing complaints in the first place and then see the process through. I hope the same fortitude will strengthen them now.
Some years ago we had problems with low-level, but organised, drug dealing on the Highbury estate. None of our residents was prepared to come forward for fear of retribution.
And who could blame them? But it has to be said that this latest blunder will weaken what little trust the public has in the council or the police when it comes to protecting witnesses.
This makes it all the more important that the council addresses the long-term problems.
I don’t just mean the blunder on the day. I mean the deep-bedded arrogance of some council staff.
Councillor Terry Stacy made the accusation that the Labour leadership “has tried to distance themselves from this and blame the officers”.
I’m sorry, but as the unnamed mother who went through a similar experience three years ago while the Lib Dems were in charge makes clear, the attitude of some staff was dismissive and arrogant.
She says: “The council had guaranteed our anonymity, but the council officers seemed quite blasé.
They just shrugged their shoulders and said: ‘Well, your identity would be released in court anyway.’ They promised it would never happen again, and it has.”
The failure to protect the identities of 51 families may have been an unlucky accident on the day. But it was symptomatic of an attitude which allows sloppy staff work to pass under the radar.
The council is going to have to go a long way before residents and the public will take the risk of becoming a witness.
Highbury New Park, N5
• I READ with interest and dismay of the inadvertent leaking of names, street names and telephone numbers of more than 50 residents who had complained about anti-social behaviour to Islington Council.
Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors understands the devastating impact anti-social behaviour can have on individuals and entire communities, having represented the Pilkington family. In 2007, Fiona Pilkington killed herself and her daughter after years of torment. They were effectively prisoners in their own home.
In April 2012, the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers published a victim-focused report relating to anti-social behaviour. The Home Secretary’s foreword in the report recognised: “…These long-running [anti-social behaviour] problems and the sense of helplessness that goes with them – can destroy a victim’s quality of life.”
However, it is clear from the Andover estate debacle that it is not just the police that need to improve how they deal with anti-social behaviour, but a multiple-agency approach is required.
Islington Council has acknowledged that mistakes have been made, and issued an apology, but unfortunately public confidence in the council has been damaged.
This is likely to deter people from reporting anti-social behaviour in future. It is therefore important in a democratic society to hold public authorities (including the council) to account to ensure that standards are improved, failings addressed and lessons learnt.
There are potential legal remedies available to the victims of this breach. I am happy to meet residents to discuss their options and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 874 8487. Inquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Hodge Jones & Allen LLP