Met Faces Appeal Over Blacklist Investigation

Construction workers from the Blacklist Support Group are to challenge a decision by the Metropolitan police not to investigate claims that officers colluded with an industry blacklist.

The group, which supports workers allegedly blacklisted because of their union activities, submitted a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and the Met last November but this was non-recorded and dismissed as being ‘too general’.

The allegations centre around the Construction Association, a company shut down in 2009 when its chief officer admitted running an illegal database of 3,200 workers. Major UK building firms, including Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert McAlpine, Laing O’Rourke and Costain are said to have been sold data on workers’ union and health and safety activities. Workers on Crossrail, the Olympic Park, Portcullis House and Wembley stadium are reported to have been denied employment or sacked from their jobs. In 2011, protesters blockaded the Olympic site while last year a junction near the Crossrail site at Oxford Street was the scene of another anti-blacklist demonstration.

The Met subsequently asked the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to send them the blacklist database in May 2012 but later dismissed the claim. A Met spokesperson said:

“I can confirm that the directorate of professional standards received an allegation of an alleged breach of the Data Protection Act in November 2012. This public complaint was subsequently non-recorded and the complainant was advised to make a criminal allegation if they felt it appropriate.”

The Met telling a complainant to report a crime allegedly committed by the Met to the Met is slightly less surprising than one might expect once we take into account a claim made by ICO investigations manager David Clancy, also a former police officer. Clancy said information on the construction industry blacklist included what appeared to be details of surveillance on workers which ‘could only have come from the police or security services.’

The Met have some previous for not being overly keen to investigate themselves for wrongdoing — the Tomlinson fiasco, the ongoing Plebgate investigation (which saw a third arrest yesterday) and phone hacking being just a few high-profile cases showing them in a less-than-positive light. And considering that the  ‘woefully underequipped and hamstrung’ IPCC hand out all but the most serious cases to individual police forces for investigation, one may not find the police watchdog suitable recourse.

Business secretary Vince Cable said that there won’t be a new investigation on blacklisting, but plans to meet with the ICO to discuss future evidence of the practice.

Photo by david.bank in the Londonist Flickr pool.

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