£300 payout and apology from council for revealing man’s drink-driving conviction

County Hall, the headquarters of Durham County Council.
County Hall, the headquarters of Durham County Council.

Council bosses have been told to apologise and pay £300 after revealing a man’s drink-driving conviction.

The offence was uncovered during a routine check after the man, identified only as Mr B, offered to help look after a child in care.

Social workers for Durham County Council then shared this with the carers for the youngster, referred to as ‘C’.

They also recommended Mr B should not be allowed to drive C unless he was accompanied by his wife.

Details of the incident and subsequent complaint were detailed in a report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

According to the Ombudsman: “The council says B’s carers were already aware of Mr B’s conviction, and the social worker who spoke to them does not recall who mentioned it first.

“Mr B disputes this. He says C’s carers were not aware of his conviction.

“He says he got the conviction at the lowest point of his life, and the council’s disclosure took away his right to privacy and meant he had to relive an extremely distressing time now that C’s carers are aware of his conviction.”

The report added the offence was about 20 years old, meaning it was ‘spent’ and therefore an offence to disclose.

While it accepted the county council had ‘a duty to safeguard C’, it was also at fault for revealing ‘sensitive personal information’ about Mr B without getting his permission first.

The information was provided through the Police National Computer (PNC) system and the Ombudsman added the local authority did not have strong enough guidelines to ensure information from it was handled securely.

The council accepted the recommendations to apologise and make a ‘symbolic payment’ to acknowledge Mr B’s ‘distress, and his time and trouble pursuing his complaint’.

Margaret Whellans, Durham County Council’s corporate director for children and young people’s services, said: “We co-operated fully with the ombudsman’s investigation and accepted its findings.

“We have apologised to the complainant in this matter and are in the process of carrying out a thorough review of our policies.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service