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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: Liberty threatens to sue ICO over blacklisted construction workers


A human rights charity is threatening to sue the privacy watchdog unless it takes immediate action on behalf of thousands of blacklisted construction workers in a scandal that it compares in stature to phone hacking.

According to the Independent, Liberty has written to the Information Commissioner, Sir Christopher Graham, accusing him of failing to act over a secret database that held the details of 3,200 blacklisted workers, some of which were gathered using secret surveillance.
The organisation is threatening to take Graham to court in order to force him to investigate the case.
Details of the blacklist came to light in 2008 when it emerged that an organisation called the Consulting Association had compiled information on the agency staff ranging from political activists and shop stewards to health and safety representatives.
Invoices from the time revealed that 44 construction companies had paid to see the names on the list and Sir Robert McAlpine, which built the Olympic stadium, has since had a legal claim lodged against it for its alleged involvement in the situation.
But Corinna Ferguson, Liberty’s legal officer, said that the organisation could not understand why the Commissioner had taken so little action over a human rights violation of such wide public interest.
“Contracting out the blacklisting of innocent workers, politicians and journalists is no better than farming out phone hacking to private detectives, and the consequences for our democracy are just as grave,” she continued. “If we cannot persuade the Commissioner to discharge his public duty, we will consider seeking assistance from the courts.”
The IC’s Office acknowledged that it had received Liberty’s letter and would respond in due course.
A spokesman said: “In 2009, the ICO closed down the construction industry’s blacklist operated by the Consulting Association. Ian Kerr, who ran The Consulting Association, was prosecuted and fined £5,000, and a number of construction companies were served with enforcement notices.”
These were the “highest powers” available to it at the time and “our action was widely welcomed”, he added.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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