December 9 2013 Latest news:
Friday, September 13, 2013
The law was probably broken when the former chief executive of Norfolk County Council secretly recorded the then leader of the authority, an investigation has concluded.
Former County Hall leader Derrick Murphy lodged a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office after it emerged he had been recorded by top council boss David White, without his permission.
And the office said it was “likely” that the council had breached the Data Protection Act, because Mr White had not told Mr Murphy he was recording the conversation.
The office has ordered the council to take steps to stop such an incident happening again, which it has pledged to do.
The revelation over the secret recording come during an eight-hour meeting of the council’s standard’s committee in January, where Mr Murphy was accused of seven code of conduct breaches.
He was cleared of all but one – that he breached the code of conduct by asking his political assistant to claim it had not been Mr Murphy’s idea to send an email to the BBC last April.
But it was Mr White’s admission that he secretly recorded a conversation with the then leader during his own interviews over that email which was the major shock at the hearing – and which led to Mr Murphy’s solicitor accusing the chief executive of breaching the data protection act.
Mr Murphy, who had been due to stand in Forehoe in South Norfolk in May’s county council elections, but withdrew, reported the issue to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
And the office has delivered its verdict. A spokesman for the office said in a statement: “The Data Protection Act requires organisations to use people’s information fairly and lawfully. This means that the information should only be used in a manner that the individual would reasonably expect.
“Following a complaint made to our office, we have found it likely that Norfolk County Council breached the Data Protection Act by failing to inform an individual that their comments were being recorded.
“While this case appears to involve a one-off incident, we have asked the council to take steps to ensure that this problem does not occur again.”
Mr Murphy said the commissioner’s ruling was what he expected and he would now consider whether he could use legal proceedings to pursue the matter.
A spokeswoman for Norfolk County Council said they had yet to receive formal notice of the determination of the case, but said: “We will of course consider the findings of the Information Commissioner’s Office and take any steps to prevent the situation from happening again.
“The council takes its Data Protection responsibilities very seriously and Data Protection training is mandatory for all staff.”
Mr White declined to comment.