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Campaigner cleared after arrest for publishing documents from council housing organisation

A local campaigner was arrested after downloading and tweeting documents he found online concerning board meetings and other affairs of Leathermarket Community Benefit Society, a community-led organisation whose purpose is to provide council homes for local residents in severe housing need.

The BBC has reported that police subsequently concluded no crime had been committed as the documents were public.

Robert Hutchinson had been accused of breaching the Computer Misuse Act by downloading the documents.

Leathermarket is a community-led organisation that proposes to build new homes for the London Borough of Southwark on a site in the Bermondsey area, a step opposed by some residents.

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Mr Hutchinson said he was held by police for four to five hours and questioned but they later accepted no offences had been committed, He told the BBC that he had come across the documents through a Google search, with none of them marked confidential or password protected.

Leathermarket Community Benefit Society said in a statement: “The documents accessed are confidential and were stored on a password protected page on the CBS website for directors. 

“When it came to the CBS’s attention that confidential information had been accessed and subsequently shared via Twitter, the CBS reported the data breach to the police - who requested a full log of visitor access to the website before deciding whether or not to progress. The police carried out their own independent investigation into who accessed the documents and how, and have now concluded their investigation. 

Southwark declined to comment.

Mark Smulian

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