Northern Irish counselling charity apologises after confidential papers blew out of fire escape

Contact NI documents contained details of conversations between callers and counsellors

Details about callers to the charity's Lifeline service were on the papers
Details about callers to the charity's Lifeline service were on the papers

A Northern Ireland-based charity has apologised after it lost papers containing confidential information about clients when they blew out of a sixth-floor fire escape.

Contact NI, a counselling charity that runs a telephone support service called Lifeline, said the documents contained the names of about 20 callers and accounts of conversations between them and counsellors.

The charity said the papers, some of which were found in streets near the charity’s office in Londonderry, were lost when a box in the office containing the documents fell over on Sunday afternoon and the contents blew out of a sixth-floor fire escape.

It said that staff rushed to secure the papers after they were alerted to the incident by members of the public. Some were handed to the BBC before staff members were able to collect them.

The charity has launched an investigation and promised to deliver a full report to the Public Health Agency and the Information Commissioner. It said it would comply with any recommendations the agencies made.

Fergus Cumiskey, clinical director at Contact NI, apologised to callers to its helpline and said counsellors would immediately contact people whose identities had been revealed.

"We fully realise the distress this temporary data loss has caused and sincerely regret and apologise for this incident," he said. "Contact also wants to record our appreciation for the public support and encouragement, enabling our immediate response and containment of this incident."

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