Sheffield Council sent out rape victims' contact details to hundreds of people

Sheffield Council has apologised to dozens of rape victims after their contact details were shared with more than 300 people when sending out an update on the Spearmint Rhino licensing application.

Friday, 13th September 2019, 14:59 pm
Updated Friday, 13th September 2019, 16:45 pm

An email from the council’s licensing committee, updating all those who had submitted comments or registered an interest in the renewal of the strip club’s licence sent out on Thursday, displayed the email addresses of hundreds of people.

The authority recalled the email on Friday morning.

It comes as councillors prepare to make a decision on whether to grant the venue a sexual entertainment venue licence at a meeting on Monday.

Spearmint Rhino Sheffield

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Steve Lonnia, head of licensing at Sheffield Council, ‘unreservedly apologised’ for what he said was a ‘human error’.

Jonathan Bagley, one of those who received the email, said: “It’s just an absolute mess and I believe that this is the second or third time the licensing committee has recalled an email.

“I used to work in democratic services so I know it’s not hard to blind copy people in emails so that contact details aren’t shared.”

Mr Bagley said he replied to the council’s initial email ‘as soon as he got it’ asking for an explanation.

He added: “I would like a full apology from the commissioner’s office.”

In August, a damning report found that dancers at the Brown Street venue had performed sex acts and breached more than 200 regulations.

An inquiry by Sheffield City Council found evidence of 'sexual touching of customers by dancers', 'sexual touching between dancers', plus sex acts performed by dancers upon themselves and with each other.

The report said the club’s code of conduct rules had been broken 145 times and licence conditions had also been breached on 74 occasions.

The club, on Brown Street, is the only licensed sexual entertainment venue in Sheffield and has been open for 16 years.

Sammy Woodhouse, who was subjected to a decade of abuse by gang-leader Arshid Hussain as a teenager, also had her email address shared as part of the email.

She said: “It’s an absolute disgrace. There are rape victims contact details on that email.”

Steve Lonnia, head of licensing at Sheffield Council, said: “We would like to unreservedly apologise for this human error, which led to the disclosure of the personal email addresses of consultees in the Spearmint Rhino licensing application.

“We have written individually to all of those affected to say sorry. Sheffield Council takes incidents of this nature seriously and will review the way communications of this kind are made.”

Mr Lonia advised people to delete the email and also delete it from their deleted items.

Sheffield Council’s licensing committee will meet to decide on the application at Sheffield Town Hall at 10am on Monday.

Officers have not made a recommendation to the committee and have asked that ‘members carefully consider the application’ and ‘take such steps as the committee consider necessary for the promotion of the council’s sex establishment policy.

A report said that options available included granting the application, defer it or refuse it in whole or in part.