Written Answers. - Police File Data Disposal.


asked the Minister for Finance the procedures by which confidential photographs, documentation and other data relating to police files in respect of deaths arising from non-accidental injuries, namely, shootings, transcripts of court cases and other such similar data handled by all Government Departments are disposed of; whether sub-contractors are involved in the disposal of such matter; whether such disposal is done by shredding, incineration or by other methods; if he will make a statement in this regard; if he is aware of reports that photographs and papers such as those referred to are or have been in the possession of a private commercial company operating in the north central part of Dublin; whether the availability of such data is consistent with the rights and dignity befitting those involved; and if he is aware of the potential for abuse, including blackmail, which such apparently casual disposal arrangements suggest.

At one time all confidential waste paper was collected from Government Departments and offices by the Stationery Office and taken to a paper mill for pulping. After the closure of that paper mill the Stationery Office were unable to make suitable arrangements with any other local firm for the pulping of the waste. In 1979, detailed instructions were issued by the Department of the Public Service to all Departments and offices about the custody of official documents and the need to ensure that there was no unauthorised disclosure of information. The instructions stressed that Departments and offices should consider the additional steps which might be required to meet their particular circumstances. All the more confidential material is disposed of by Departments and offices under their own arrangements. The Stationery Office have disposed of the less confidential waste by shredding, burning and deep burial but due to the quantity and nature of the material these methods have presented problems and there has been a build-up of such material.

A trial arrangement was made in January 1981 by the Stationery Office with a private firm whereby they would arrange to have certain waste paper disposed of by pulping. Despite assurances of utmost security, it appears that this trial arrangement was not satisfactory.

The trial arrangement with the private firm has been terminated and all documents remaining in their premises have been recovered. I am taking steps to ensure that, in future, confidential material will be disposed of in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of improper disclosure.