What has happened to St Albans Council's stolen laptops?

PUBLISHED: 19:09 25 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:41 06 May 2010

POLICE are declining to confirm or deny whether or not they have recovered four laptops stolen from St Albans district council offices. The laptops – one of which contained personal data such as names and signatures of over 14,500 postal voters – were sto

POLICE are declining to confirm or deny whether or not they have recovered four laptops stolen from St Albans district council offices.

The laptops - one of which contained personal data such as names and signatures of over 14,500 postal voters - were stolen from the St Peter's Street offices on November 9.

The data was not encrypted which has led to fears of it being accessed and used fraudulently.

But although police have arrested a 35-year-old man from Stevenage on suspicion of the thefts, they would not say whether or not they had found the laptops.

A police spokesperson said that releasing such information would compromise the investigation but assured anxious residents that they were currently following up various leads.

The Stevenage man has been bailed until March 4 next year.

A special meeting of St Albans council's cabinet is being held next Tuesday evening, December 1, in response to the thefts of the laptops and chief executive Daniel Goodwin presented an interim report on the findings of initial investigations into the thefts at last night's full council meeting.

He told councillors that at the time of preparing his report there was no evidence of any residents' data being misused but an action plan was being developed on a precautionary basis.

Mr Goodwin also said that the council had been looking into whether it would bear any expenditure arising from the matter including both financial loss and the cost of protection against identity theft. It was satisfied that it carried suitable insurance cover.

But the issue is still generating anger and concern. Linda Ryan of Mile House Close, St Albans, said it was the second time her family had been affected by the loss of personal data after health records held on laptops had gone missing.

She warned that she would seek legal redress if the data was used fraudulently and called for public bodies to be held accountable.

She has written to St Albans MP Anne Main who, it transpired this week, is also on the list of postal voters whose data was on the laptop.

An elderly Harpenden resident, who did not wish to be named, is concerned about a "suspicious" phone call she received just days after the laptops were stolen.

She was contacted by a man who offered to upgrade her PC and asked her to sit at her computer and start making changes to its setting.

Her son, who lives in Suffolk, said: "She eventually became uneasy about the whole transaction and thankfully hung up the phone. Goodness knows who it was trying to contact her but I can't help but think it's linked to the missing council laptop and that the data is being used in a fraudulent manner."

His mother had contacted the council but they had only logged the information, he added.

The council has a helpline that people can call if they have concerns about the data or want to talk to someone in person. The numbers are 01727 819291 or 819294.

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