Magistrates deem £5000 fine wholly inadequate and refer Kerr case upwards

The man behind the company that compiled a blacklist of construction workers has pleaded guilty to a charge of a breach of the Data Protection Act.

Ian Kerr, boss of The Consulting Association, is said to have produced a blacklist of more than 3000 workers.

Kerr was tried by Macclesfield Magistrates Court. He pleaded guilty but failed to attend in person.

The magistrates decided against sentencing Kerr because the maximum fine of £5000 they could levy was “wholly inadequate”. The case has now been transferred to the Crown Court where Kerr could face an unlimited fine.

Construction union Ucatt has warmly welcomed the decision. Alan Ritchie, general secretary, described Kerr’s failure to attend as “gutless” and “showing contempt for justice”.

“The magistrates’ decision should be applauded. Mr Kerr set out to ruin construction workers’ lives. He deserves the maximum possible sentence,” he said.

Blacklisting is not currently illegal, although the government has pledged to resolve the matter this autumn.

More than 40 companies subscribed to Kerr’s list, which was discovered during an investigation by the Information Commissioner.

The companies include major players in the m&e sector including NG Bailey, Haden Young, Balfour Kilpatrick and Shepherd Engineering Services (SES).

Ucatt said it had seen documents showing one firm, Skanska, spent more than £28 000 on checks in 2008 alone. As each check cost £2.20, the firm must have made about 35 checks a day.

“The level of blacklisting that appears to have been undertaken by Skanska is staggering,” said Ritchie.

Skanska has promised to investigate its use of the construction blacklist and has pledged not to tolerate any form of blacklisting on its sites.