Belfast Telegraph

Belfast councillors' bank details blunder cost almost £65k

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

A mistake which led to personal and bank details of Belfast City Councillors being released to a member of the public has cost almost £65,000, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

A report presented to councillors has found that dealing with the security breach which was blamed on ‘human error’ cost £64,250 — most of which went on legal fees.

Public representatives were forced to cancel bank and credit cards after the confidential information — which included account numbers, home addresses, personal phone numbers, car registrations and national insurance numbers — were accidentally released to Heather Brown, the step-daughter of a former councillor, in March this year.

In some cases passport numbers and the country in which they were issued were also given out to Ms Brown, who frequently requests information and uses the pseudonym Prudence Halliwell, the name of a character from the television series Charmed.

A legal bid to prevent the information being released to other parties was immediately launched and the council had to obtain a court order. The report said legal costs were high because the defendant, Ms Brown, lives in England.

“The proceedings were effective in controlling the breach and recovery of the information.

“The legal costs incurred in pursuing recovery were significantly greater than those that would have been incurred had the action been pursued in this jurisdiction alone. Costs incurred are £64,250.00,” it stated.

A telephone request had been made to the City Hall for the names, electoral wards and email addresses of all 51 councillors.

But a member of staff disclosed a full array of personal details in a spreadsheet.

The report added: “The council has put in place measures to ensure that the risk of human error compromising the security of personal data is minimised and managed.”

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