UCATT slams disappointing sentence

Ian Kerr of the Consulting Association, the company operating a secret blacklist containing the names and details of over 3000 construction workers, has received a fine of £5000 today at Knutsford Crown Court in Cheshire.

Over 40 major construction companies used Kerr’s data to blacklist workers.

Much of the information contained on the blacklist related to a worker’s union membership. In particular workers who had taken on the role of a health and safety representative or had been a whistleblower on dangerous sites were targeted.

Kerr was ordered to pay £5000, plus around £1200 in costs at today’s hearing. The sentence was described as “outrageous” by George Guy, UCATT’s regional secretary for the north west.

“The case was moved to a Crown Court because a £5000 fine was the maximum allowed in a Magistrates Court, so to end up with a fine no higher than that is very disappointing,” said Guy.

UCATT organised a demonstration outside the court this morning.

In 1999 the Government passed legislation which outlawed blacklisting however the necessary regulations were never introduced. The Government are committed to introducing the required regulations this autumn.

Due to blacklisting not being illegal Kerr was charged with data protection offences as he was not registered to hold such information. He has pleaded guilty.

The case was originally held at Macclesfield Magistrates Court in May, where Kerr failed to appear. The magistrates agreed to transfer the case to a Crown Court because they believed that the maximum penalty they could impose, a £5000 fine, was “wholly inadequate”. Kerr faced an unlimited fine at the Crown Court.

The construction companies who used Mr Kerr’s services paid an annual subscription of £3000 and then £2.20 for each check on a worker. Leading m&e contractors including NG Bailey, Haden Young, Balfour Kilpatrick, Crown House Technologies and SES were all listed as using Kerr’s services.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of UCATT, said: “Ian Kerr deserves the maximum possible fine; he ruined people’s lives. It is disappointing that he is not facing a custodial sentence. If it is proved that others were involved they must also face the full weight of the law.”