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Removing all trace

The government proposal to delete records of companies after 6 years makes little sense to anyone trying to pursue asbestos and mesothelioma litigation.

The DWP figures for mesothelioma victims for 2015/2016 has risen to over 3100. The disease has a latency of up to 60 years and the search for the company responsible for exposing a worker to asbestos has always been a difficult task.

Insurers rarely volunteer information and will deny employment or that the claimant has correctly named his former employer unless he has been able to obtain some proof. A common tactic even when they are fully aware of the correct identity of the proposed defendant.

Companies House is now considering removing data from companies after 6 years in response to complaints from business people linked to dissolved companies who cite data protection and their rights to privacy. The problem has worsened since Companies House changed their web service to make information free to the general public.

A similar problem was faced by Google when thousands of convicted paedophiles and fraudsters applied to have all reference of their offences removed from the search engine.

This followed a European Court of Justice ruling that people have the “right to be forgotten”, which right exists under the 1995 Data Protection Directive. Under Article 12 of the Directive a person can ask for their data to be deleted once that data is no longer necessary.

In both instances complaints are considered by the Information Commissioner’s Office and it would seem that rather than face a mountain of complaints and possible legal action Companies House has decided to capitulate to the wishes of those businessmen who wish to hide their past.

Protecting the data of the guilty should not override the rights of innocent workers suffering from mesothelioma to seek compensation from a negligent employer, no matter how long ago that may have occurred. The practical impossibility of investigating a claim without access to company records will deprive many of justice.