Council members calls for porn surfer to be named

Richmond Council criticised for having no Internet policy

A Richmond councillor caught surfing for pornography on a council-owned laptop is facing pressure from fellow male colleagues to declare his guilt publicly in order to clear their names.

Richmond-upon-Thames Council had decided to protect the anonymity of the guilty party, after an internal investigation found the councillor to be accessing sexually explicit material on the Web.

"The decision was taken in March when it went to the committee, that there was no need to reveal the councillor's name," said a spokesperson at Richmond council.

This decision has, however, backfired now that innocent members have met with suspicion from the public. The borough's 34 male councillors are urging their censored colleague to reveal his identity, and Conservative councillor Alan Butler will be tabling a question on the issue at a council meeting tonight.

An investigation was launched by the borough's standards panel after a random check of staff laptops found the councillor to be logging onto adult pornography sites "for quite extensive periods of time over the week in question, late at night, at home". The panel decided that a letter of reprimand was the only action necessary, since no illegal offence has been committed, and the activity had taken place outside of office hours.

"Councillors aren't employees, and so they cannot be tied to a work contract on acceptable Internet use," said the Richmond Council spokesperson. She did however confirm that the Council is now drawing up a code of practice for employee use of the Web and email.

Chris Owen, lawyer for technology law firm Manches, argues Richmond Council should be criticised for having no Internet guidelines already in place.

"In practice, anyone who has access to the Internet through a third party should have to comply with guidelines -- councillors could still have guidelines enforced on them, otherwise you run into problems when penalising them for Internet abuse."

A recent study by the London Chamber of Commerce (LCC) found 44 percent of UK firms had no recognised policy for staff use of email or the Internet, meaning they have no recourse if employees are found to be misusing their services.

The dangers of sending email from work were highlighted last December when a lawyer at city firm Norton Rose faced disciplinary action for circulating an email about his girlfriend's sexual tastes, which reached over one million people within a week. The downloading of pornography in an office context has also become a matter of increasing concern.

Take me to ZDNet's Net Crime Special

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All