Fingal County Council pay out settlement to couple over data infringement

ireland
Fingal County Council Pay Out Settlement To Couple Over Data Infringement Fingal County Council Pay Out Settlement To Couple Over Data Infringement
Fingal County Council had returned the personal data of the family by post to a wrong address following which the envelope had inadvertently been opened by a neighbour. Photo: File image.
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Ray Managh

A Dublin couple, whose personal data - and that of their newborn son – was mistakenly mailed and consequently revealed to a neighbour, has settled separate €75,000 damages claims against Fingal County Council, a judge has heard.

Barrister and data infringement specialist adviser Declan Harmon told the Circuit Civil Court that Michaela Keegan Roche and her partner, Alan Byrne, had earlier this year “accepted satisfactory financial damages on confidential terms” from the local authority.

The level of compensation paid to the couple, who live at Sheephill Avenue, Corduff, Dublin 15, was not disclosed to Circuit Court President, Ms Justice Patrician Ryan who was asked to deal only with a settlement offer which the council had made to the couple’s child, Jackson Byrne, now less than 18 months old, which had to be ruled in open court.

Housing support

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Mr Harmon, who appeared with Joseph McDonagh from Mycase Solicitors, told the court that in mid-2020 following Jackson’s birth, the couple had applied to Fingal County Council for housing support.

“They were required to submit a considerable volume of personal data, including personal information relating to their child, as a result of which the local authority became a collector and processor of personal data within the meaning of general data protection regulations,” Mr Harmon said.

He said that on September 4th 2020, Fingal County Council had returned the personal data of all three by post to a wrong address following which the envelope had inadvertently been opened by a neighbour.

“The neighbour contacted the family indicating she had received their personal data through the post - an infringement of the child’s, and his parents’ rights under data protection legislation,” Mr Harmon said.

He said that by failing to process the personal data with appropriate security and integrity the council had breached the family’s rights, and they had been entitled to a judicial remedy of up to €75,000 each, the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court.

Damage to reputation

Mr Harmon told Judge Ryan he had been engaged by Mycase Solicitors and had advised that the family faced damage to reputation as well as being exposed to risks of fraud and significant economic or social disadvantage.

“The court can determine compensation for breach of protected personal data to the limit of the court’s jurisdiction and the family had a right to seek a remedy before the courts for infringement,” Mr Harmon said.

Mr Harmon said that no such claim brought under the data protection legislation had run to conclusion before a court in the State, so there was no legal precedent available to facilitate guidance on quantum.

“I have considered that although compensateable damage to the child might be considered by the defendant to be of very low severity, by contrast the personal data of the parents which had been breached in the same incident was of a much more sensitive and private nature as it included banking and financial information,” Mr Harmon said.

Judge Ryan, who heard that the damages offered to the child of €500, while nominal was not inappropriate in the circumstances, approved the offer, together with costs, by Fingal County Council.

Counsel said the level of compensation already paid to the child’s parents remained confidential in accordance with the wishes of the local authority.

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