WEYMOUTH Land Registry has been secretly filming staff at home, in shops and at the gym after they made compensation claims for personal injury at work.
A total of six employees were put under surveillance after making claims they suffered from repetitive strain injury.
One Weymouth woman, Jane Brooke, was fired after being filmed alongside members of the public at the fitness centre at Weymouth Swimming Pool.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) held a rally outside the Land Registry in Cumberland Drive yesterday in support of Mrs Brooke and vowed to fight her sacking as unfair dismissal.
Mrs Brooke said she was told to go to the gym by her doctor after she began suffering from pains in her wrist and her neck seized up.
While at the gym she was filmed by private investigators employed by the Land Registry.
She was filmed over several months but only found out when the PCS, of which she was branch secretary, told her.
Mrs Brooke said that she felt sick when she was given the DVDs showing her being followed around Weymouth.
She said after 30 years’ work she was called into a room and told she had five minutes to leave the Land Registry before being escorted out of the building. She was told she was fired for gross misconduct, with the Land Registry saying that she made a fraudulent claim for her RSI.
She said: “When I put the DVD on I couldn’t watch it. I felt sick. Now I remember looking out of my blinds and thinking ‘oh that car’s still there.’ “They took photographs of my son and my friend. I live on my own, but who are these people and have they been CRB checked? That guy came into the gym and filmed without permission.
“There were about eight other people there and they were mostly women.”
Penny Waller, who still works at the Land Registry, was also filmed and was horrified to see footage of her house while her daughter was at home alone.
“They filmed me with my daughters and they filmed my 17-year-old daughter driving alone and me taking my mother home. They filmed into our front door.
“I think they were trying to say I did not have an injury but I’ve had an operation on my arm.”
PSC assistant general secretary Chris Baugh said Mrs Brooke had been singled out to discourage others from claiming.
He called the episode ‘a public disgrace’ at a meeting at the Alex Inn after the rally outside Land Registry headquarters.
Mr Baugh said the six claims for personal injury were stopped due to costs and concerns about proving that the injuries were caused by work.
A spokesman for the fitness centre confirmed they had been told of filming without their knowledge and no longer allow visitors to take bags in for fear that cameras could be concealed inside.
Of the six employees put under surveillance, three have not yet been informed they were filmed during an investigation believed to have cost £40,000 and containing more than 60 hours’ footage.
Private investigation firm Quantum Enquiries and Surveillance from Cheshire declined to comment.
This comes after news that 62 workers at the Land Registry face losing their jobs as part of cost-cutting measures.
Marion Shelley, spokesman for the Land Registry, said that Mrs Brooke was sacked for gross misconduct.
She said: “Fraud is a criminal offence and any compensation in respect of personal injury claims is paid from fee income received from Land Registry’s customers.
“Land Registry has a duty to ensure that compensation is always properly and justifiably paid.”
When asked to explain the use of surveillance at the gym she said: “The decision to commission limited surveillance was taken following legal advice and after giving due consideration to the impact on the privacy of the employees and those around them.
“Given the potential cost and impact of these and future claims if they were to succeed, Land Registry believes this was a reasonable and proportionate action. It is not a decision that was taken lightly, but Land Registry acted appropriately and in accordance with the law.”
She added: “This action was taken because it was not clear that these were legitimate claims.
“It was not connected to any trade union role held by Mrs Brooke.”