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Council wins computer monitoring lawsuit

Triumphs over porn-perusing politician

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Harlow Council has won a High Court action brought against it by a former councillor who claimed that its monitoring of a laptop used by him was unlawful. Lib-Dem Councillor Matthew Shepherd sued after being criticised for allegedly downloading pornographic images.

Seeking damages of £35,000, the former councillor claimed breaches of the Human Rights Act, the Data Protection Act, and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. But the judge ruled last month that the monitoring was legitimate, according to a report by Herts and Essex News Online.

Mr Shepherd had argued that the offending images were downloaded as legitimate research into condom sizes, pursuant to his role as a health spokesman. But the court considered this implausible, according to the news report, and accepted that the council's monitoring was lawful to prevent breaches of its code of conduct which prohibits accessing pornography.

The judge awarded legal costs against Mr Shepherd – which the council estimates at around £20,000 – and refused his request for an appeal.

"As a publicly-funded organisation, the council has a duty to ensure that councillors and staff use council funded IT equipment appropriately," the council said in a statement. "The council has robust policies in place to ensure use of computer equipment is monitored and action taken when misuse occurs. These policies were correctly enforced by our staff."

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