Halton Borough Council

Breach details

What Details of adoptive parents accidentally disclosed to birth parents.
How much 1 record.
When 25 May 2012
Why An employee mistakenly included the address of a child’s adoptive parents in a ‘letterbox’ letter to the birth mother. The birth mother passed the address on to her own parents, who wrote to the adoptive parents seeking contact with the child. The grandparents then made an application to the Court for direct contact with their grandchild, which was refused following two hearings, and the grandparents had to undertake only to use the Council’s ‘letterbox’ procedure for contact.

Regulatory action

Regulator ICO
Action Monetary penalty of £ 70,000
When 30 May 2013

Why the regulator acted

Breach of act Breach of the seventh principle: the Council failed to take appropriate organisational measures to prevent accidental disclosure, such as implementing a peer-checking process and a clear checklist of requirements.
Known or should have known Because of the very nature of the ‘letterbox’ process which was designed to protect the identities of adoptive and birth parents, the council should have known that this type of issue was a risk, and that a breach of confidentiality would cause ‘substantial distress’. The council should therefore have taken steps to prevent the problem arising.
Likely to cause damage or distress This contravention was of a kind likely to cause substantial distress and on this occasion resulted in what a court deemed to be ‘inappropriate contact’.