Belfast City Council has apologised after a sensitive document was used as a sign in a public toilet at one of its cemeteries.
A healthcare worker, who did not wish to be identified, handed over the document to the Belfast Telegraph after finding it taped to a wall in a loo at Roselawn Cemetery, where City of Belfast Crematorium is situated.
The file was a cremation order for Mr James Renwick, whose funeral service took place in June 2009. Mr Renwick’s wife Hannah said she was appalled at the |blunder.
She said: “This is confidential, something that should be locked away in a file in an office.
“This shouldn’t be used as some sort of waste paper or poster.”
The health worker said he was shocked to find a document containing a dead man’s personal details being used in such a way.
“I was caught short over the weekend and I stopped my car and popped into the toilets at Roselawn,” he said.
“There was a sign pinned to the wall warning about high-pressure taps and I noticed it was torn and hanging off, and had writing on the back of it.
“I turned the paper over and it was a cremation order, with someone’s personal details, name, address and age.
“As a healthcare worker myself I was very aware that this was in breach of the data protection act and also could be very upsetting for a family, thinking that their loved one’s details had been used as a sign in a toilet, it’s not very respectful.
“I decided to hand the details to the Belfast Telegraph as I believe people should know about this, and for this to be a warning not to let it happen again.”
The document contained Mr Renwick’s address, age, occupation, cause and place of death as well as his church denomination and the type of music used in his funeral service.
His widow Hannah is also named on the document as next of kin.
On the flip side of the A4 sheet is printed: ‘Caution high pressure taps’ with a hand-written note added, reading: “So don’t put your hands right under the taps please!”
Mrs Renwick said: “How did it get into the hands of someone looking after the toilets?
“At first I just thought of it as an
annoyance, but it’s actually very upsetting and disrespectful and has raked all the sadness back up again.
“I am glad that this man handed it in and I am glad that I now know and hope nobody else’s private information is being used like this — it’s scary to think of anybody being able to find out where I live in this way and I will certainly be looking for answers from Belfast City Council.”
A spokeswoman for Belfast City Council said that the incident was being probed.
“We are investigating this incident and apologise for any distress caused by this information being made public,” she said.
“All necessary steps will be taken to ensure that such a lapse does not occur again.”