Information Commissioner’s Office does not rule out legal action against 40 contractors

Firms that used the illegal blacklist of construction workers that was uncovered in February may face prosecution, the Information Commissioner’s Office confirmed this week.

Initially it was believed that the ICO would not prosecute contractors that used the database, which was run by private detective Ian Kerr through his Droitwich-based company, the Consulting Association. However, an ICO spokesperson said this week: “We’re still looking at taking enforcement action, including prosecution. We are investigating and sifting through evidence and have not decided yet what action can be taken.”

About 40 firms, including Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert McAlpine, Costain, Laing O’Rourke and Skanska, bought information from Kerr and used it to blacklist “troublemakers”, including workers with union links. Trade unions insist these firms should face legal action.

Kerr is due to appear at Macclesfield magistrates’ court on 27 May to answer charges relating to the database. The ICO is prosecuting him for contravening the Data Protection Act. Kerr faces a maximum fine of £5,000 at this court, but because of the amount of money the database made, magistrates may decide the case should be heard in the crown court, where he would face an unlimited fine.

The database was sold for £3,000 a year. Information on individuals cost £2.20 a time.

Workers have raised fears that some of the information was provided by rogue union officials. Some members of Unite allege that the union, which is seeking to take legal action against the firms under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act, is avoiding suing under data protection laws as this could lead to the sources of information being exposed.