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Employee seen taking breaks on CCTV used in 'Isis' graffiti investigation had rights breached, court told

It was argued that the use of data arising from a criminal investigation breached Cormac Doolin’s data protection rights.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

CCTV IMAGES USED in a civil disciplinary procedure while “masquerading as a criminal investigation”, breached an employee’s rights under the Data Protection Acts, a court was told today.

Judge Jacqueline Linnane, outlining proceedings before her in the Circuit Civil Court, said gardaí had advised Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, to view CCTV images to help track down the author of “disturbing graffiti” on the wall of a workers’ break room. 

The court heard that the words “Kill all whites – ISIS is my Life” had been scratched on the wall and the gardaí had been called in. They advised the hospice to view CCTV coverage in connection with a criminal investigation.

It was during this viewing that the hospice authorities had discovered that a number of its staff were taking unauthorised breaks which had led to disciplinary proceedings against craftsman’s mate Cormac Doolin with regard to unauthorised breaks.

Eddie Walsh BL, counsel for Doolin, of Leighlin Road, Crumlin, Dublin 12, told the court that it was through the use of CCTV images gleaned for a different purpose, a criminal investigation, that the hospice had discovered the unauthorised breaks being taken by staff.

Walsh, who appeared with Fintan Lawlor of solicitors Lawlor Partners, said the use of this data arising from a criminal investigation breached Doolin’s data protection rights.

Appeal 

He said Doolin was appealing a decision of the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon who had held in July last that the hospice had not acted in violation of the Data Protection Acts in relation to Doolin.

Dixon held that Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services had a lawful basis under a “legitimate interest provision” in the Acts for the very limited processing of his personal data which had taken place.

Doolin, who is in no manner connected with the writing of the wall graffiti concerned, had alleged that his employer’s use of his data for reasons unrelated to the purpose for which it had been originally processed was a violation of his rights.

Walsh, who told Judge Linnane that Doolin had admitted having taken unauthorised breaks, said the hospice had used data arising from an inquiry “masquerading as a criminal investigation” to carry out a disciplinary investigation against him with regard to unauthorised breaks. 

He was applying to the court for leave to make an amendment to a notice of motion on behalf of Doolin with regard to appealing the Commissioner’s decision.

David Fennelly, counsel for the Commissioner, said that due to the very late provision of a replying affidavit by Doolin, the Commissioner had been taken totally by surprise by the application to amend before the court and he would be opposing any amendment.

The Data Protection Acts require that personal data must not be processed for purposes other than the purpose for which it had originally been collected.

Dixon held that while the viewing of Mr Doolin’s images had initially been viewed in connection with a security incident alone, she did not consider that the subsequent viewing in relation to disciplinary proceedings against him constituted “a different purpose.”

Doolin’s application for leave to amend the terms of his appeal was adjourned until January.

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Ray Managh

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