There was an upturn in violent incidents after police intelligence on suspected gang members was distributed by a Newham LBC member of staff, an investigation has found.
The employee in January 2017 distrubuted an email containing an unredacted version of the ‘gangs matrix’, which had previously been sent to Newham by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), to its youth offending team and external organisations working with the council in response to gang-reated violence.
As a result, information was shared relating to 203 people, including dates of birth, home addresses and details of whether they were a prolific firearms offender or knife carrier, as well as their gang association.
The investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office found rival gang members later obtained photographs of the sensitive information via the social media platform Snapchat.
The borough then experienced a number of incidents of serious gang-related violence, with victims including people featured in the intelligence.
Specific reference is made in the commissioner’s report to the murder of a 14-year-old boy in September 2017 whose name appeared on the matrix. The data breach was referenced during the serious case review into the death.
Newham was fined £145,000 for disclosing the personal information but the information commissioner said it was not possible to establish a causal connection between any incidents of violence and the data breach.
The investigation also found that Newham did not report the data breach to the information commissioner’s office, as required. An internal investigation was conducted but did not start until a significant time after the council had become aware of the breach.
It was also established that the council did not have any specific sharing agreement, policy or guidance in place to determine how its own staff and partner organisations should handle the gangs matrix databases securely.
In a statement, Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz apologised to the mother of the boy who died for the “profoundly regretful” failing.
She added changes woud be made to protocols to ensure all data is protected and held securely.
Deputy commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone said: “Our investigation concluded that it was unnecessary, unfair and excessive for Newham council to have shared the unredacted database with a large number of people and organisations, when a redacted version was readily available.
”The risks associated with such a transfer of sensitive information should have been obvious.”