Witnesses who complained of anti-social behaviour on a crime-hit estate had their personal details given to the troublemakers in a council blunder.
Details of some 51 residents in the area – including names, street names and phone numbers – had been photocopied in the Town Hall’s legal department and stapled to the injunctions.
It included several residents who did not form part of the complaint and who had contacted the council for other matters.
Police are now patrolling the estate around the clock following the ‘serious data leak’ which has already led to harassment, it has been reported.
Labour’s new crime chief, Councillor Paul Convery, said he was ‘furious’ at the mistake which has set back the council’s flagship drive against anti-social behaviour.
He told the Islington Tribune: ‘In order to tackle anti-social behaviour we rely on residents coming forward as witnesses. Often they are scared.
‘This has undermined their confidence in the system and we will be working very hard to get that confidence back.’
The injunctions were served after months of evidence gathering last Friday. It only emerged yesterday that confidential information had been served with them.
It is believed it came to light after one of the witnesses was called a ‘grass’ as she was out with her children.
Cllr Convery told the newspaper that police would now be on the estate 24 hours a day to prevent any further trouble.
Officers had visited six of the 10 addresses where the information had been delivered to recover it and also to warn the youths involved of the ‘serious’ consequences should they cause any trouble for the witness.
The other four were being tracked down ‘as we speak’, he said last night.
However, he reserved his full anger for the Town Hall’s legal department.
‘This should not have happened,’ he said. ‘There has been a lax procedure and security regime.
‘These details should not even be on the log, never mind be accessed and photocopied by an absent-minded clerk.
‘In other areas of the Town Hall, such as in child protection, you can’t even log on to the computers.’
‘Management action’ would be taken at a senior level, Cllr Convery said, adding: ‘We are utterly gobsmacked by this.
‘We are going to have to do everything we can to restore public confidence as the co-operation of the public is the only way to tackle anti-social behaviour.’
A Town Hall spokesman said today that the police had already recovered six of the 10 bundles and that they were in the process of contacting the 51 people whose details had been leaked.
‘We will assist them in any way we can, including helping them with changing their phone numbers if necessary,’ she said previously.
The spokesman added that the troublemakers were ‘low level’ and rather than being violent or gang members had been causing nuisance by playing music too loudly or verbally intimidating residents.
Louise Round, Islington Council‘s corporate director of resources, said: ‘In recent weeks, a number of people have been gathering on the Andover estate in the evenings until the early hours and causing a nuisance to residents.
‘There were complaints about loud music, smoking drugs and verbal abuse. None of these people are residents of the estate.
‘The council prepared legal injunctions against these thirteen people, banning them from the estate. The process of serving these injunctions began on Friday (20 April) and ten have been served.
‘A serious mistake has been made in the process, and each of the ten has been given paperwork they should not have had. This includes a log of all calls reporting anti-social behaviour to the East area housing office during March, with names, phone numbers and street or estate names if they were given.
‘This information should not have been released, and we are extremely sorry that, through an error on our part, it has been disclosed.
‘The council is in the process of contacting every single person who is on that list – in total 51 people – to offer our apology and any practical support we can give.
‘This includes additional security measures if they request it. We’re working closely with the police, who are putting extra patrols on the estate to reassure residents and deter any further anti-social behaviour.
‘This is a breach of data protection rules, and we have reported the matter to the Information Commissioner. At the Leader of the Council’s instruction, we will also hold a detailed review of our admin processes to safeguard against this ever happening again. We are already taking action to tighten our procedures.
‘Anyone who thinks they may be affected who hasn’t already been contacted please call us on 0207 527 5313 or out of hours on 0207 527 7272.’