Southwark Council comment on news articles regarding former employee - update

11 October 2017

In response to news stories regarding a former member of staff who had a conviction under the Terrorism Act:

Eleanor Kelly, Chief Executive of Southwark Council, said: “The individual concerned no longer works for Southwark Council. As soon as her background came to light we took immediate action and terminated her employment. While she was employed by the council she worked in a junior capacity as a customer services officer. She did not disclose her full offence to the council.

“During her employment this individual never had access to police watch list data, police records or police systems. We have fully reviewed her activity while she was employed at the council, including her computer usage, and no wrongdoing was uncovered.

“We have also undertaken a robust review of our processes and procedures in light of this incident.”

Further information

Ms Girma did state that she had an unspent conviction on her initial application for an apprenticeship, but not in several subsequent internal job applications. At no point in any application did she declare that she has a conviction under the Terrorism Act or for terrorism offences. When the initial unspent conviction was declared, the officer responsible should have established the details and escalated the matter to the HR director. Regrettably in this case, procedure was not followed. We now have a new Head of HR in place who has been updating and strengthening our processes, and all applicants are now asked to give full details of any unspent conviction when they apply.

In response to a request for an independent investigation

Eleanor Kelly said: "We have already carried out our own investigation and know what happened - when Ms Girma initially declared a conviction this should have been followed up and escalated to the Director but this did not happen for which we are very sorry. Later on Ms Girma failed to declare her unspent conviction in subsequent applications.

"The members of staff responsible for the error no longer work at the council and since that time we have completely overhauled our HR department with a new Head, who has spent the last year improving and updating our processes and procedures.

“However, we want to have complete confidence that our new processes are as robust as they can be, and this morning the Leader instructed me to request an independent audit by our external auditors, which I will do today. When the review is complete they will then report to Audit and Governance Committee”

Page last updated: 11 October 2017