DVLA sells your details to criminals

Shipoftheline

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Found this a very interesting story,

The Government is selling the names and home addresses of motorists on its drivers' database to convicted criminals, a Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) tells would-be wheel-clampers there is "no problem" with them buying drivers' home addresses - even if they have a criminal reco

Indeed, the two bosses of one clamping firm on the list of companies to whom the DVLA is happy to sell drivers' details are currently serving seven years' jail between them for extorting money from motorists.

The Mail on Sunday has now forced the DVLA to hand over its list of 157 firms which can buy personal information about drivers at £2.50 a time. All the companies need do is tap in a registration plate, and back comes the full name and address of the vehicle's owners.

The dossier shows that details of millions of drivers have been made available to bailiffs, credit control companies, debt collection agencies, property management firms, leisure centres, solicitors - and even one of the world's biggest loan and financial services companies.

A number of other companies on the list appear to be dissolved or simply not to exist.

The revelations, which suggest that the DVLA is in flagrant breach of data protection laws, last night caused a storm of protest, with MPs demanding an immediate end to the practice.

Even the Government's own Department for Constitutional Affairs, which runs the English courts system, said it thought selling the information was illegal.

The DVLA - run by the Department for Transport - says it has a legal obligation to sell the information to anyone who can show "reasonable cause" for having it, such as approved car-park operators who want to trace drivers who have overstayed and incurred a fine.

Mailshot firms

Yet among the companies on the list is MBNA Europe, one of the continent's biggest credit-card and loan companies, which spends more than any other firm in Britain on sending mailshots to individuals offering them credit.

The firm yesterday denied it could access the list - but the DVLA said MBNA Europe WAS allowed to obtain drivers' details as it had a private car park at its Chester offices.

Perhaps the most notorious firm on the list, however, is Aquarius Security. The Portsmouth-based clamping company is run by Darren Havell and Gordon Miller, who in July were found guilty at Bristol Crown Court of extorting thousands of pounds from motorists.

Havell and Miller, the court heard, deliberately trapped drivers by blocking them in with a van - and even immobilised cars as they were being driven away. The pair would demand up to £300 to release the vehicles.

Havell, 30, and Miller 38, were convicted of seven charges of blackmail. Sentencing Havell to three years' jail and Miller to four, the judge told them: "You dealt with the motorists in an arrogant, bullying and abhorrent manner."

Police called the men "organised criminals".

Before his arrest, Miller was also served with a five-year anti-social behaviour order after being accused of driving his truck into a 60-year-old man, fracturing his knee, and of clamping an on-duty police car.

Britain has recently been hit by a spate of crimes, such as the fatal stabbing of millionaire financier John Monckton in his Chelsea home, in which the perpetrators appear to have full knowledge of their victims' personal details. The DVLA's sale of private information to convicted criminals is sure to raise fears of an escalation in such crimes.

Criminals confirmed

Last night, however, the DVLA confirmed that the presence of criminals on its list was no mistake, and that a criminal record was no bar to receiving drivers' names and home addresses.

When a Mail on Sunday reporter, posing as the boss of a new clamping firm, contacted the Swansea-based agency, he was told no inquiries would be made into his background before his name was added to the list.

Having phoned to ask about getting the licence-plate data, he was put through to official John Evans. Mr Evans explained that once a clamping firm had sent in the right documentation and "met the required standards", an electronic link to the DVLA database could be set up for about £3,000.

"We will audit people and pay visits to make sure the information is being used in an authorised way but no, it's not a problem if he has a criminal record - we don't check that anyway," he said. "In theory we can release the material to anyone who has reasonable cause for wanting the information. You can have the information as long as you can show us you have a justifiable reason for wanting it and you're only going to use it for legitimate purposes, eg to contact people whose vehicles are parked illegally."

The Mail on Sunday called back to double-check, saying we were "worried about the criminal record thing". Mr Evans replied: "No, we don't make a check of the criminal record."

Breaks human rights convention

Lawyers say the DVLA's behaviour - first revealed by The Mail on Sunday last week - breaches the European Convention on Human Rights.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who received dozens of complaints from constituents about Creative Car Park Management - also on the official list - said last night: "These are outrageous revelations. Not only is the Government showing a completely contemptuous attitude towards its responsibility to keep data to itself, it now appears to be handing it out willy-nilly to known criminals. This practice is totally unacceptable and must be stopped right away."

Another clamper whose inclusion on the DVLA register gives him access to motorists' names and addresses is Costas Constantinou, whose company, Vehicle Clamping Securities, has been named as the worst clamping firm in the UK.

Mr Constantinou has been accused of contacting one of his firm's victims at home to demand payment - although he denies the allegation.

Another approved operator, Car and Vehicle Clamping and Towing Services, forced Olympic sprinter Katharine Merry and a friend to pay £670 to retrieve their impounded cars in Swindon.

Using the DVLA's database is surprisingly straightforward. A company simply feeds vehicles' registration numbers into the agency's system. Requests are processed overnight and drivers' details are e-mailed by 7am the next day. Fees, currently £2.50 per inquiry, are collected weekly by direct debit.

Our report last week triggered a massive response from Mail on Sunday readers who were horrified to discover their names and addresses were being sold to unregulated private companies in an industry notorious for unscrupulous behaviour.

Civil rights organisation Liberty accused the DVLA of breaching the European Convention on Human Rights, which upholds a person's right to a private life. Director Shami Chakrabarti said: "That the DVLA is making a profit from our private details while the Government is giving reassurances about identity cards is extremely troubling."

Data protection row

DVLA chiefs claim they have the right to disclose personal information under a Statutory Instrument, a part of UK law that is passed without being discussed in the Commons.

But a spokesman for the Department for Constitutional Affairs, which is responsible for data protection, said the practice should stop immediately.

"In our view, there is nothing in the Data Protection Act that allows people or organisations to give out these personal details. The Information Commission is the arbiter. It enforces data protection laws. The Mail on Sunday has done a public service in bringing this to people's attention."

Assistant Information Commissioner Jonathan Bamford said: "We will be taking this up with the DVLA to find out why they think this is covered by the 'reasonable cause' provision. We police the Data Protection Act, but we don't have any power to issue 'Stop Now' orders. We will use the powers we have to find out what's going on urgently."

He could not say what the commission's decision might be in case it prejudices any legal appeal. But he said if he believed the law was being broken, he may issue an enforcement notice against Transport Minister Alistair Darling.

The DVLA said: "When a car park company approaches us to receive vehicle keeper information, we ask for a summary of their business before releasing information. The aim is to enable companies or individuals to enforce on their private land. If we are not satisfied the company meets the 'reasonable cause' requirement, access to such information is withheld."

Confronted with our evidence, the DVLA said it would now start checking the criminal records of applicants for its data - although it refused to say that a conviction would be a bar in the future.

The DVLA appears to be the only government department or agency which sells personal data to third parties. Revenue and Customs, the Department for Work and Pensions and the UK Passport Service and others all said they had no power to sell private details to outsiders.

When The Mail on Sunday confronted DVLA chief executive Clive Bennett at his Swansea home about the sale of drivers' details, he insisted: "We have a duty to supply this information."

He stressed: "It is wrong to suggest the DVLA is making a lot of money out of this service. We only charge £2.50, and that is solely to cover our costs."

Asked if the DVLA checked the criminal records of those they supplied drivers' details to, he declined to comment.
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adil

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that very scary the goverment giving our private and confidentail details to criminals
 

leggoman

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dvla

giving it to any one is wrong, and to some one that owns a car park is just a joke.
but to criminals as well what do they think they are up to, heads should roll, dont know why they think its ok to give any ones details to criminals is ok
what else they been up to that we dont know about
 

lone.gunman

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I seem to recall this coming up a few years back (when a 'new' (oh god not another one..:mad: ) computer system was installed), but I don't remember it really getting into the wider press. I sort of remember a minister 'giving assurances' to a select committe about it...Might have been Yesterday in Parliament on R4 I think....
Anyway, it's totally mad, god knows where the information will end up. I think the only people who should have access to the database are the Police.
 
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