A weekly newspaper has successfully protected a source from being revealed after it was accused of breaching the Data Protection Act in its handling of a leaked council email.
The Mid Devon Gazette series published a story last December outlining how Cullompton Town Council had been holding finance meetings behind closed doors, which was against regulations.
The story, headlined “Council apologises to man refused access to meeting”, was written by reporter David Shepherd after the paper received a leaked copy of a council email.
After the story was published, the town council and Ashley Wilce, a former town councillor who had been denied access to a meeting, asked for a copy of the email to be sent to them – but the Gazette denied this saying it could lead to their source being identified.
This led to Mr Wilce filing a complaint against the paper to the Information Commissioner’s Office, claiming it was breaching the Data Protection Act – but the case has now been closed by the ICO which said the newspaper had acted correctly.
Gazette editor Patrick Phelvin said: “It is important that journalists are able to protect sources who wish to remain anonymous and I am delighted that we are able to continue to do so following the ICO’s decision.”
The paper told the ICO that under Section 32 of the Act, it was exempt from compliance with some aspects of it when data was held for journalistic purposes and used in the public interest.
ICO case officer Tim Mulvenna has now said his office had brought its investigation to a close.
In a letter to the paper, he said: “In this case we have decided that it is likely that the Mid Devon Gazette has complied with the requirements of the Act.
“It does appear that you have applied Section 32 correctly and therefore complied with your obligations.”