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I had to face the consequences of breaking the law, why shouldn’t local councils?

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Having discovered that his local council were acting unlawfully by requesting a copy of his subject access request from the police, Mikey wasn’t content with a simple ‘sorry’ from them.



Last year I reapplied to go on the councils housing list as in 2017 I’d been refused due to my criminal conviction which was classed as ‘antisocial behaviour’.

Not long after I’d made my application, I received a letter from the council saying that they were unable to progress my application until I could provide evidence that I had no further convictions. I was told that I could do this by making an online Subject Access Request (SAR) to the police.

However, when I visited the police website a warning flashed up alerting me to the fact that where third parties were asking you to supply them with an SAR, then this would be considered ‘enforced subject access’ which was a criminal offence under Section 184 of the Data Protection Act. The information on the police website confirmed that employers, insurers, housing providers etc could only ask for a basic Disclosure and Barring Service check as evidence of unspent convictions.

This experience with my local council made me realise that before I did anything else related to my housing application, I needed to have a much better understanding of what I lawfully needed to disclose to housing providers, employers etc. As I researched online, I came across a disclosure calculator run by Unlock and, having input all my sentence details and submitted the form, it came back that my convictions were now all spent. This was fantastic news as I didn’t think they’d be spent until 2023.

I went back to the council to raise my concerns about the enforced SAR, happy that if they were to do a basic criminal record check it would come back blank. The council merely apologised and acknowledged that what they’d done was unlawful and promised that they would update their policies and procedures.

I really wasn’t happy with their response and decided to raise my complaint to the next level, requesting that the matter be investigated further. I made it really clear that I’d been punished for my criminal offence and that merely saying “sorry” for breaking the law didn’t really suffice! I advised them that as enforced subject access had been unlawful since March 2015, it was likely that hundreds if not thousands of other applicants could have also been affected.

The council responded to my complaint promising to backdate my housing application to 2015 and to prioritise my housing application. I’ve got to say that I took this offer with a pinch of salt. However, the next time I bid on a property I was told a couple of days later that the property was mine if I wanted it.

I didn’t think for one minute that I would have a place to feel secure in like I do now. I’m in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse and I’d previously shared a house with two mates; one drank heavily and the other smoked marijuana which made recovery extremely difficult. Now I have my own space I feel calm and secure.

I’m so grateful to Unlock’s disclosure calculator. If it wasn’t for the fact that my convictions were spent I’m sure that I wouldn’t have been so tenacious in my pursuit of achieving a result from this complaint.

I broke the law whilst I was in the madness of my addiction, however that doesn’t define who I am and I should be given the opportunity to live somewhere safe.

By Micky  (name changed to protect identity)

Useful links

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  • Information – We have practical self-help on applying to the council for housing on our information hub site.
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