HUNDREDS of confidential documents about nursing home residents were dumped outside a recycling centre.

Council officials discovered the huge fly tip at Raikes Lane, Bolton, but were shocked to discover it contained piles of private information about people at the former Highfield House nursing home in Suddell Road, Darwen.

The former home had been sold at auction to to property firm SMC Network Ltd, run by Afzal Mahmood, in October 2017, who planned to turn it into residential accommodation.

But Bolton magistrates heard how, instead of disposing of the documentation properly, he employed his friend, Mohammed Ali, to clear the building.

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Bolton Council had to pay for the 28 black bin bags of rubbish and loose documents, left outside the Raikes Lane tip on November 2, 2017, to be disposed of properly.

Ordering Mahmood and Ali to pay a total of £12,543 in fines, clearance costs and legal charges, magistrates described their actions a "reckless".

"The information we have been given, the evidence that has been shown, clearly shows the sensitivity of this material and we cannot overlook the fact that it was dumped in a public place with names and addresses and details of deaths and in our consideration it was extremely reckless," said Kathleen Butterworth, chairman of the bench.

Mahmood, aged 34, of Albert Road West, Heaton, New Hall Lane based SMC Network Ltd and Ali, aged 31, of Pansy Road, Farnworth, pleaded guilty to breaches of the Environmental Protection Act.

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Gemma Hamer, prosecuting on behalf of Bolton Council, told the court: "This is one of the most serious incidents of fly-tipping. The documentation consisted of patients' personal records, medical records, bank details, photographs and invoices.

"The information was confidential and highly sensitive. Arrangements had to be made to have the waste secured and then transferred to a safe place with the relevant authorities informed.

"A digger also had to be employed to remove the paperwork which had become wet and soggy."

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Shahid Ali, defending, said Mahmood and Ali both worked as couriers and Mahmood, who bought the former care home to renovate and sell on, had employed Ali to help remove a large amount of rubbish from the property.

However, they did not ensure that people sub-contracted to remove the documentation were properly licensed.

Mr Ali added that the waste was dumped by the sub-contractors after dispute over payment.

"This is a very, very harsh lesson that they have learnt," said Mr Ali, who added that Mahmood, a father-of-five, is "remorseful and embarrassed" about the court appearance.

Mahmood was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay £1.165 towards the clean-up costs, £652 towards the council's legal costs and a £150 victim surcharge. His company, SMC Network Ltd, was fined £5,000 plus £1,887 in clear-up and legal costs.

Ali, a married father-of-two, was fined £750 plus £612 towards clean-up costs, £652 in legal costs and a £75 victim surcharge.

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Cllr Anne Galloway, Bolton Council’s executive cabinet member for environmental regulatory services welcomed the conviction.

She said: "This crime was particularly shocking both in its scale and in the utter disregard shown for people’s private information.

“Fortunately, enforcement officers were able to respond quickly to collect the confidential documents and ensure they were taken to a secure facility.

“I welcome this sentence which sends a message that those who blight our public spaces and damage our environment will be held responsible for their reckless actions.”