back to article Council IT bod in the dock for flogging scrap work PC parts

A council IT worker who flogged his employers' scrap kit on eBay for £10,000 has been ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work by a court. Ian Holwell, 52, grabbed PCs and laptops due to be disposed by Derbyshire County Council and stripped out their parts to sell online. But he was rumbled and sacked after a whistleblower …

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  1. SuperNintendoChalmers

    So were they for the scrap heap or not?

    The last paragraph has thrown me here. Were these things going into the bin, or being given to a third party for refurbishing? The last paragraph obviously indicates the refurbishing but the rest of the article makes it sound like they were destined for the bin. The story plays a little differently depending on which is the case.

    1. Lord Voldemortgage

      Re: So were they for the scrap heap or not?

      "The last paragraph obviously indicates the refurbishing but the rest of the article makes it sound like they were destined for the bin"

      It seems he took memory and hard drives from items that were 'marked for disposal' - as you say it's not clear that 'disposal' means 'chuck into landfill' or if this is the point at which the kit is passed on to the third party for refurb / resale but as he still had access to them it's fair to assume that hadn't at that point been sent off site so either someone had decided to bypass the third party refurb option for that kit or he was cherry-picking precisely the sort of stuff that third party would have found most useful.

    2. Spotthelemon

      Re: So were they for the scrap heap or not?

      There's a legal requirement to recycle IT equipment so I would expect them to be selling (in one form or another) to a recycling firm (for parts & scrap rather than refurbishment) who would not be best pleased with the contract if many of the most valuable bits were being taken out before they got their hands on them & the council would end up getting less money for their scrap.

    3. vmistery

      Re: So were they for the scrap heap or not?

      I am more worried that it sounds like they are not properly disposing of hard drives. The rest should be sent for recycling as you say and not a scarp heap.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So were they for the scrap heap or not?

        My last employer (security services) sent the old kit to a third party at a cost, the third party then wiped and returned a certificate to declare it safe. They would then refurbish or re-use any parts and refund to us the percieved value of the parts, thereby reducing the overall cost

    4. Shagbag

      Theft Act 1968

      Section 5(3):

      Where a person receives property from or on account of another, and is under an obligation to the other to retain and deal with that property or its proceeds in a particular way, the property or proceeds shall be regarded (as against him) as belonging to the other.

      I believe this is what Recorder Michael Stevens was refering to with the words "if the employer says ‘put it in landfill and leave it to rot’, it is for them to decide. It is not for you to harvest the parts, sell them and provide an income"

      Additionally, as already pointed out by others, his employer had not actually disposed of them - they were just marked for disposal. No wonder Holwell admitted to theft.

    5. LarsG
      Meh

      PC disposals of PC equipment

      I'm sure the council have a politically correct disposal system in place whereby the computers are sent to Nigeria or Asia for disposal of parts. Of course the council will pay a third party to collect and dispose of the items, the third party will then provide the council with an income, usually no more than 3% of the profits.

      Although this guy was a 'thief' he was actually saving them money, and if they have been enlightened, which most councils are not, they could have gone 50/50 on the profits. It would also have saved the parts being dismantled by child labour on the Africa or Asian continent.

      He should have put the business proposal to them, that was his mistake.

    6. Kubla Cant Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: So were they for the scrap heap or not?

      Recorder Michael Stevens said "... the employer says ‘put it in landfill and leave it to rot’. So there are two possibilities. Either the council is not recycling equipment, or the Recorder doesn't know what's going on. Neither is very encouraging.

      If the Recorder was correct, and that's what the council said, at what point does this kit become fair game? Would you be allowed to harvest parts from this kit as soon as it's in the landfill, or would you have to wait for visible signs of rot? Hardware takes a very long time to rot (as opposed to software, which starts to rot from the day it's written).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So were they for the scrap heap or not?

        >at what point does this kit become fair game?

        The instant the middleman has lawfully discharged his obligations. In your example that would be delivered said kit to said landfill.

        There are people who lurk at dumps for exactly that reason. One man's...

        1. MR J

          Lurking at dump

          Actually, I had the staff come out and argue with me at one place. My dyson had a part that broke, and when I took some stuff up a guy opened up his boot and there was the same model as mine, his was broken in a different way. Great I thought, I asked him if I could have it and he said sure, so he sat it down for me and when I was done unloading my car I put it into the back of mine. Several staff ran out and told me either I take it out or they would call the police, that products taken there belong to the council and no one is allowed to pick up anything that is on site.

          Sometimes these things are crazy.

          There was a compaq repair center near where I worked, and I had 3 pc's from their garbage skip once, but I found out later that they had someone arrested for taking parts out of the skip (it was not for recycling either).

          1. Ojustaboo

            Re: Lurking at dump

            The dump employees are wrong.

            If you actually dump it, it becomes their property and only at that point can they claim its there's.

            They do have notices saying exchanging of things between cars isn't allowed, but exchanging between cars certainly isn't illegal and if y9ou give something from your car to me, while they can moan all they want, can even kick us out the dump if they so choose, they simply cannot claim its theft.

            I had a huge argument with my dump about this, I had a large roll of bubble wrap on the back-seat of my car, the guy in the car next to me asked if I was dumpling it and if so, could he have it, I said sure and took it out of my car and was about to place it in his boot

            A dump employee then snatched it off of me and said it was theirs. I said it wasn't it was mine and I'm in the process of giving it to him. The council bod took it to his office, I followed him and a huge argument ensued where he tried to tell me it was his, I told him he has zero right to take peoples stuff and he was stealing and I'm taking it back.

            He threatened to phone the police, I told him to go ahead as it would save me the bother. I then picked it up walked back to my car with it and he shouted after me "he could have offered me a few quid for it, then I would be happy"

            I then told the other guy to meet me outside the gates and I gave it to him there.

            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              Re: Lurking at dump

              Fascinating examples of dump-workers' mentality. By the definition used by the workers, either a) anything you take out of the car whilst unloading is theirs, which cannot be correct, or b) anything in the car when you enter the site is theirs, which definitely cannot be right. There clearly has to be some point at which intention is shown, and that *must* logically be the point at which you voluntarily let go of it, either over the threshold of the waste container or into the custody of a worker at the site. To do otherwise means that you could not change your mind about chucking something, or if your spare walking boots fall out of the car accidentally, they cannot leave the site either (of course, if they are good ones, that might be exactly what a worker with larceny in his heart will claim).

              Having said that, I have never had any such problems in a Dumpit site (yep, that is still what I call them) - the staff have invariably either completely ignored the civilians no matter how much someone might be struggling, or been exceptionally courteous and have clearly ignored such transactions between users as has been described here as long as the tipping has not shown the intention I described above.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Lurking at dump

                We used to have a really good bloke at our local garbage tip that would basically look the other way if you told him your story about why you wanted the rubbish. Unfortunately we've got the "waste management nazis" there now, and a council that's encouraging it (additional fees and new rules about every 6 months).

  2. Callam McMillan

    I can see both sides of the argument here, but this is a bit stupid. There should be provision to give away electronic equipment without warranty so that servicable equipment does not just go in the bin.

    1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      ...There should be provision to give away electronic equipment without warranty so that servicable equipment does not just go in the bin....

      Alas, nowadays that is illegal under the EU Waste Directive. You cannot just give electrical equipment away anymore - that's why Oxfam shops no longer sell it...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Alert

        You cannot just give electrical equipment away anymore - that's why Oxfam shops no longer sell it..."

        Most places, councils and charity shops in particular, stopped selling or giving away old electricals years ago when the EU and/or UK Gov. decided that said equipment must be tested as safe and up to spec. or the seller/giver would be responsible for accidents/injuries/deaths caused by said equipment.

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Oxfam may not take it

        but plenty of other charity shops do. As far as I can see, they all do a Portable Appliance Test before selling it on.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      It is a bit stupid. My father worked for a government organisation and used to (completely legitimately) bring home bits and pieces of computers that they couldn't find an economic use for any more, for me to play with.

      Here in the modern private sector equipment gets replaced far too regularly for that. You can still take it home... but only if you pay the lease's balloon payment. Bah.

  3. El Presidente
    Facepalm

    This lack of imagination

    And lack of connection to the real world is rife in local government.

    If Holwell could glean £10k from the sale if 'scrap' kit why couldn't the IT dept?

    £10,000 is ~10 annual council tax bills in Derbyshire.

    Whoever signed the kit off as scrap should be sacked.

    1. Cameron Colley

      Re: This lack of imagination

      It likely would cost the council more than £10k to have the drives certified as wiped, have the kit PAT and whatever else tested, install an operating system and make provision for warranties. Blame the idiotic laws not allowing IT kit to be sold off "as is" and not the council for taking the least expensive route.

      1. El Presidente
        FAIL

        Re: This lack of imagination

        @Cameron Colley

        If it was your money you would: Dban, sold as seen, no warranties.

        ONLY if it was Other People's Money would you have the drives certified as wiped, have the kit PAT and whatever else tested, install an operating system and make provision for warranties.

        1. Rukario
          FAIL

          Re: This lack of imagination

          In this case, the council would need to have the drives certified as wiped. Otherwise they end up with the problem of having some excel spreadsheet with ratepayers' personal details ending up in some computer in Nigeria. I know in several authorities I worked for, we had to have the drives certified as wiped anyway, even before sending them off to the landfill (in the days before mandatory electronics recycling).

    2. Lord Voldemortgage

      Re: This lack of imagination

      How much time and effort was required? Staff have to be paid and a few grand does not go all that far.

      It's not just the sales but any follow-up on defective kit, shipping problems etc etc not to mention the problems with the legal restrictions on how a local authority is able to raise funds.

      It may be that some items were classed as scrap when there might in fact have been a use for them but that does not mean it would be right (or even economically efficient) for a local authority to set itself up as a second-hand component sales business to try and eke out every last penny.

      1. El Presidente
        FAIL

        Re: This lack of imagination

        @Lord Voldemortgage

        "It may be that some items were classed as scrap when there might in fact have been a use for them"

        Who certified £10k's worth of saleable kit as scrap?

        "but that does not mean it would be right (or even economically efficient) for a local authority to set itself up as a second-hand component sales business to try and eke out every last penny"

        Eking out every last penny is *exactly* what we pay the wastrels for. If it was their money they would sell it and find a way round any difficulties. As it's OPM they just can't be arsed.

        1. Lord Voldemortgage

          Re: This lack of imagination

          "Who certified £10k's worth of saleable kit as scrap?"

          It's not clear that anyone did.

          Items were "marked for disposal" but as the council say they use a third party to refurbish and resell old IT kit it might well be that the items in question were destined for that process rather than the bin.

        2. Cameron Colley

          @El Presidente

          What's the procedure one goes through to ensure that selling IT kit on "as seen" and without warranty is legal? How do you word the disclaimers that people sign when they buy it? Does the ICO accept "we ran dban on the disks" as proof of the destruction of the data they contain?

          I'm seeing a lot of criticism of the council but not much constructive advice as to how these problems can be got around. If you can provide the answers then please do as I know many organisations will be looking for them and, who knows, you may be able to persuade your local council to give it a go.

          1. nichomach
            Thumb Up

            Re: Cameron Colley @El Presidente

            That's what a lot of commentards don't seem to get - if the Council flogs old kit, they are doing so in the course of a business and *they are responsible for it*, andin most cases cannot exclude all liability for it.

          2. El Presidente
            FAIL

            Re: @Cameron Colley

            "the council told The Register it would only throw away kit that couldn't be reused or sold without cost"

            So from that statement we can deduce that the person who declared the kit couldn't be 'reused or sold without cost' didn't have as much of a clue about IT kit as Holwell did - he made £10k.

            That marks the person making that decision as very, very stupid.

            1. nichomach
              FAIL

              Re: @Cameron Colley

              No, it marks Holwell down as someone breaking the law and consequently probably not someone particularly concerned with whether the kit was even safe, let alone whether it worked. It marks the council spokesbod as working for an organization that is responsible and law abiding. Guess what, if you start from the basis that you're half-inching your stock from stuff that belongs to your employer, and you're not concerned with niceties such as safety, whether it works or not and you build into your "business model" that utter disregard for both your employer *and* the luckless schmuck that you're flogging the stuff to, yes, you can make money at it. That doesn't mean that you're right, just unprincipled.

            2. Fatman Silver badge

              Re: That marks the person making that decision as very, very stupid.

              What the hell do you expect from damagement? Intelligence??

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @El Presidente

            sold as seen does not stand up in contract la anymor no matter how many ebay people put it, it has to meet the standard of as described and fit for the purpose....hence you dont see so many side of the road car dealers nowadays

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: This lack of imagination

          "Who certified £10k's worth of saleable kit as scrap?"

          It's mainly 5+ years old Dell kit.

          An authorised recycler will buy it on the understanding that they will make money by stripping the useful bits (the RAM and HDDs the ex-employee stole). If the council had used staff to strip and sell those parts, you've already lost some of that £10k in wages. Probably quite a lot of it as they have a legal requirement not to be the next Daily Mail "OMGs, More! Council! Data! Lost!" headline so HDDs must be wiped. Selling a "working" PC would cost more, even when sold internally only to staff as PAT testing is also required along with reinstalling the original OEM WinXP image.

          Even on the "new" PCs, a failed HDD replaced under warranty, we only send back the top cover and keep the platters.

  4. Moktu

    Seems like an enterprising chap. rather better than ending up being shipped overseas, and picked over for precious metals by chinese children (poisioning them in the process).

    If i need an IT bod who can think outside the box, I'll look him up.

    1. Lord Voldemortgage

      Do that. But don't be surprised if you find out he is using his work time on a personal project to your detriment.

    2. Terry Barnes
      WTF?

      He's a thief. Gun runners and drug dealers are also quite enterprising. Doesn't mean you'd want to employ them.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        @Terry Barnes

        "He's a thief." - the law isn't always right, and in this case it seems that a combination of laws* has created at least the semblance of an ass.

        I'd consider employing him.

        *Theft Act, laws on disposal/testing, employment laws etc.

        1. nichomach
          Facepalm

          Re: @Terry Barnes

          Right, yes, because obviously the problem here is that we have laws against theft, not that someone broke them.

  5. Teiwaz Silver badge

    If the guy made £10000 on these parts clearly they were'nt that old. Throwing them on landfill strikes me as criminal waste especially as it is by a council not a commercial company and this kit was paid for by taxpayers.

    I used to work for a training company with charitable status, the only computer kit they had were donated, I'm sure many such charities exist that would be grateful for donations.

    I don't condone the mans theft from his employers, but neither do I condone the councils actions either, the council reps comments just seem like justification for a lazy approach to older kit and perhaps the council is being over-generous to itself as regards it's IT budget.

  6. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    he should

    have set himself up a little business saying 'PC recycler' , bought the council official concerned a slap up dinner and offered £500 for the lot.

    Then sold them on for £10 000..

    Or at least thats how local concils work around here

  7. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Mushroom

    The people grumbling the council didn't make £10,000

    are they the same that bay for blood when councils lose personal data ?

  8. Martin Milan
    FAIL

    Ahem!

    The point you're all missing here is this:

    The council was disposing of it's equipment, and failed to notice that hard drives etc were not making it as far as their approved disposal agent.

    Since said agent would doubtless raise concerns if machines started turning up missing such useful components, it seems to me unlikely the agent was receiving the machines in question. This leads us to "whole machines were likely not making it to the disposal agents, and nobody noticed".

    This chap might have been a well intentioned (if naive and poorly informed) chap, diligently wiping material etc before selling devices on. But what if he wasn't?

    Data Protection For Dummies to the IT Dept I feel...

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Ahem!

      On the other hand, the gentleman in question might have been a bit more diligent than some of the "official" recyclers we have seen stories about. Certainly, if it had been me, I'd have made damn sure the drives were wiped with several passes to make sure they nothing on their would lead to a news story about leaked data - let's face it, it doesn't take long, and it isn't difficult.

  9. El Presidente
    FAIL

    The irony is that the downvoter

    Will probably be local a government slacker doing the down-voting on a council PC, in a council office, and in all probability breaching their internet usage guidelines. On our dime.

    1. El Presidente
      FAIL

      Re: The irony is that the downvoter

      2 down-votes already?

      The prosecution gently rests its case.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The irony is that the downvoter

        Well your case is tired so resting it might be for the best.

        FYI I downvoted you and do not work in the public sector. Whether you think I work on your 'dime' probably depends on the depth and subtlety of your understanding of where your money goes.

      2. Rukario
        Headmaster

        Re: The irony is that the downvoter

        It's probably to do with your usage of "dime".

        (We need a language flame icon, along with a popcorn icon, an old fart icon, etc, etc, etc.)

  10. Lee D Silver badge

    Not sure I understand this ruling.

    Are we saying that you can't sell second-hand electronics at all? Surely not.

    Are we saying that you can't take rubbish from a bin and put it to better purpose? That has huge implications.

    And if the guy had set up as a waste management company who collected the parts, took out the value, then paid another waste management company to come in and take the rest to dispose of officially with WEEE licenses and stuff (while obviously charging the same or slightly more than they were), that's absolutely fine?

    It's not like he took anything from the company itself. He hasn't "permanently deprived" them of anything they were interested in keeping (though I understand that implicit assumptions cannot form explicit permission to do so). Even if the physical acts were technically different, he was basically taking rubbish out of a bin. So now all those guys who I see take rubbish from householders bins in the hopes of selling bits of it on as scrap, or for their own use (e.g. taking an old TV from the street next to the bin), or from people's skips are breaking the law? If he'd waited until the kit was abandoned in a skip to be taken away and then come back later in an unofficial capacity to take it, is that still a problem? What if someone takes the waste paper or cardboard boxes out of the workplace bin to give to their kids to play with? Is that really technically illegal or any different?

    Sure, there's legal ownership there somewhere still but is it really that detrimental to either party? If his employers had promised X amount of usable scrap to the waste companies, then yes I see the problem - he's made them breach their contract with them. But if it's just junk that's going into the bin, surely the "value" of the goods is zero. Hell, with IT stuff you have to PAY people to take it away for you, generally, so it actually has negative value.

    And why couldn't he have got permission? The council obviously disposed of it, no matter what value was in it, and provided no guarantees as to its usability. They've met their taxation obligations ("beyond economical repair" for the company to justify disposing of it does not mean that the kit couldn't have value for someone else - if it did, nobody would be able to throw anything away). Why can't you just say "It's in the bin, I consider it rubbish and I will concede all rights to it being my property"? Why do they have to endorse its future use or certification before someone can take it "as is", when I can sell my crap on eBay and not have anyone question it?

    I don't get it at all. Sure, there may be technicalities and difficulties related to this particular instance but, in general, once something has been disposed of intentionally, why can't someone else pick it up and use it rather than let it go into landfill? What about all those art installations? What rights do I get to things I put in public bins? Can I complain that the council gets a kickback from recycling rubbish that I *obviously* intended to dispose of into landfill?

    It seems there's just too much riding on saying that what he did was wrong. It makes more things that are "right" in theory become illegal than it does things that are "wrong" in theory stay illegal.

    1. Lord Voldemortgage
      Stop

      "It's not like he took anything from the company itself. He hasn't "permanently deprived" them of anything they were interested in keeping (though I understand that implicit assumptions cannot form explicit permission to do so). Even if the physical acts were technically different, he was basically taking rubbish out of a bin."

      Or was he taking rubbish out of a recycling bin before said bin went to a company that would pay based on the value of its contents?

      The articles here and on thisisderbyshire aren't really clear on the matter but it does look like the council uses a third party to carry out precisely the sort of stripping and resale that Mr Holwell was doing and would receive a cut of the proceeds - if this is the case then it is a much more obvious theft.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      AFAIK

      When you dump something in a skip, the item then belongs to the disposal company,

      therefore taking anything out is theft! The same applies to household bins or electrical items.

      However, I have done a bit of skip raiding in the past, got a load of great kit!

      The thing I wonder about is... I sometimes buy from a local recycling centre

      All the kit has personal data on it and I do a DOJ wipe on all hard disks I get.

      But i bet there are juicy pics on the hard drives, the passwords are always 'password' ;)

      Still some valuable kit can be picked up for a few quid;)

    3. Terry Barnes
      Stop

      No - the ruling is quite clear. You can't steal things from your employer. What the thing is, its usefulness or value is irrelevant - you can't take stuff that doesn't belong to you. All your 'what ifs' are irrelevant, because he didn't do any of those things - he stole stuff.

    4. Vic

      > He hasn't "permanently deprived" them of anything they were interested in keeping

      Yes he has. He removed the high-value resaleable parts. Had those parts made it to the recycler, the Council in question would have received part of the sale price for them.

      > he was basically taking rubbish out of a bin.

      No. He was taking parts from a pile marked "for disposal". "Disposal" does not mean land-fill...

      > If he'd waited until the kit was abandoned in a skip to be taken away and then come back later in an

      > unofficial capacity to take it, is that still a problem?

      Potentially, yes.

      Throwing something in a skip does *not* mean you have relinquished ownership of it. Taking anything out of someone's rubbish without prior consent is still theft. Note, however, that such consent is generally very easy to obtain if you actually ask...

      > And why couldn't he have got permission?

      Why indeed?

      > The council obviously disposed of it, no matter what value was in it

      Yes, but "disposed of" does not mean "gave away"...

      > Why can't you just say "It's in the bin, I consider it rubbish and I will concede all rights to it

      You can. The Council did not.

      > It seems there's just too much riding on saying that what he did was wrong

      Not at all. what he did was Theft. There is no question.

      The annoyance is that he could probably have done something very similar to what he did, but perfectly legitimately. But he didn't.

      Vic.

  11. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Boffin

    Wee legal note

    (IANAL).

    English & Welsh (I have been told off for saying "UK" thanks to the Scots) law has repeatedly held that *unauthorised* removal of items from a bin is theft.

    You know that old saying about "possession being 9 points of the law" ? It really means that laws surrounding property are very well established. The bottom line in England and Wales is that *everything* belongs to *someone*.

    You put rubbish in your bin - it's yours until the authorised collection happens. And case law has held that if it's a municipal bin, the authorised collector is the local council. Not the Wombles.

    There are quite a few people with criminal records that didn't grasp this crucial fact.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Wee legal note

      And if you don't fill your bin, but recycle it yourself- prepare for a fine- as it 'belongs' to the council to flog off, suddenly.

      (There is a case of a 'green' farmer who fell foul of this but it's Friday so can't be arsed to find a link...)

  12. K Silver badge
    Mushroom

    it would only throw away kit that couldn't be reused or sold without cost

    Well he managed to sell it! So why can't the council?

    This is just typical of public services in general, I've have several friends who supply the public sector with Tech equipment and they amaze me with the stories of wastage (though they obvious love it!)... but such behavior would just not be tolerated in a private company!

    1. El Presidente

      Re: it would only throw away kit that couldn't be reused or sold without cost

      See also the room I saw in a council storage depot: Full to the ceiling of projectors and other high end IT kit which was bought for a project, installed, then the department was closed down 5 months later because the building was to be sold. The whole lot was then ripped from the building to a place of storage where it was still sat 2 years later.

    2. Cameron Colley

      Re: it would only throw away kit that couldn't be reused or sold without cost

      I've news for you. Private companies can, and do, simply throw away kit that nobody will buy from them for "re-purposing". As I asked in a previous post, please could someone with experience of selling kit "as is" and without warranty on behalf of a large organisation please explain how it is done so that others may learn.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Selling in the course of a business

        If you sell something in the course of a business then the Sale of Goods Act 1979 applies to it. The goods must be as described; of satisfactory quality; fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time.

        This is why it is generally not worth the time and money investment to sell low-value second-hand equipment.

        It's a shame if things get wasted but we do need consumer protection laws. And it creates an opportunity for recycling businesses such as whose services appear to be retained by the council in question.

        1. K Silver badge

          Re: Selling in the course of a business

          You sell the equipment AS-IS, with minimal guarantees etc... WTF do you think makes eBay tick! This has nothing to do with legality, the problem is 90% caused by the bureaucratic nightmare in public services. Additionally I imagine it also caused by some people wanting to hide wastage (what better way than to bury it for 2 years and then just dump it).

          1. Cameron Colley

            Re: Selling in the course of a business

            "You sell the equipment AS-IS, with minimal guarantees etc..."

            Do you have legal advice to back this up? The last legal advice I heard on the subject was that selling kit dirrectly is a no-no because of the warranties and other red tape required. Last I heard selling B2B is find but there are things they will not buy, as seems to be the case here.

            That means the kit was worthless -- the fact that a private individual could sell it on eBay warranty-free is absolutely immaterial. To the council the kit was actually a debt they needed to clear.

            I asked what I did because I think, frankly, that some people posting here have no idea what they're talking about and was hoping that somebody could elucidate rather than keep repeating that they ought to sell the kit.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: we do need consumer protection laws

          Council sells to recycling contractor and there's no "consumer" involved - this is a business-to-business transaction and a lot less encumbering.

          1. K Silver badge

            Re: we do need consumer protection laws

            As was pointed out earlier, councils "retain" items for X length of time, so they often get dumped in storage for 2 years. After which they are only suitable for scrap. Sell them why they still retain value and use. I don't care if its B2B or B2C sales, I just would like to see this dealt with with the Tax payers interests in mind, rather than the public servants and services (which yes, do occasionally differ, especially where money is concerned!)..

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @ K

              You are misled, my friend.

    3. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: it would only throw away kit that couldn't be reused or sold without cost

      Some of the companies I worked for let us bye our old hardware cheep. From a security perspective it was perhaps a bit odd as hard disks went out the door without any concern. I put Linux on my hardware and felt honest. However It always annoyed me how perfectly fine ethernet cards and often memory was scrapped for no good reason.

      My point, however, is about software licenses. I have a feeling that when a company starts to pay for a license they never stop as nobody ever seems to have any responsibility for that part. (licenses in the landfill)

      I could imagine it may be still harder in the public sector.

      "but such behavior would just not be tolerated in a private company!". It would make me happy if that was true but I am afraid you are an optimist.

  13. Christopher Rogers

    He essentially stole the goods for personal gain. He should have approached the council and discussed taking the gear off their hands. It was still theirs to scrap.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      paperwork

      who would issue the destruction/disposal cert? only an authorised reseller can do this.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ummm

    If it costs that much for disposal, I am sure there are enough scrap metal guys with a car crusher that could do this (*supervised) for 1/10th of the price.

    Just a thought!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Good luck

      fetching a decent price for a hard drive on eBay after it's been crushed...

  15. mark 63 Silver badge
    Flame

    “if the employer says ‘put it in landfill and leave it to rot’, it is for them to decide. It is not for you to harvest the parts,

    WRONG

    It is your moral duty for the sake of the planet to extend the life of those parts and slow down the rapid depletement of the worlds precious metals and other resources.

    This really pisses me off. Especially the amount of kit I've seen my employers pay to have destroyed.

    If "Landfill" is really what derbyshire county asked for they should be prosecuted under environmental legislation

    1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
      Flame

      Oh dear....

      ...It is your moral duty for the sake of the planet to extend the life of those parts and slow down the rapid depletement of the worlds precious metals and other resources...

      I've not come across the word 'depletement' before. Everyone I know calls it 'depletion'.

      Unfortunately, I have come across many people telling me that my 'moral duty' should be to obey their half-baked ideas without question. The way I see it, Gaia has been ravaged for her precious metals, which have been illegally ripped from her womb, and we ought to return them all to below ground as soon as possible.

      Preferably together with all the environmentalists...

      1. mark 63 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Oh dear....

        'depletement' , yeah its new one i'm trying to bring in.

        "illegally ripped from her womb"

        you come across as quite the environmentalist yourself!

        "return them all to below ground as soon as possible."

        agreed! just sayin we should hang on to the minerals we already ripped out to avoid having to do it again , or do less of it ( the ravaging)

        still, the human race it but a minor irritation when you look at the lifespan of the planet, it'll all be over soon and the scars will quickly heal. geologically speaking

  16. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Flame

    The difference between UK and European Law...

    ... is that, under UK law, anything not specifically forbidden was deemed to be allowed.

    Under the Codex Napoleon, the base principle was that you were not allowed to do anything unless properly authorised.

    We USED to operate strictly to UK law, but we are now moving towards the European approach as we slowly merge our legal systems. So nowadays, ask for authorisation before doing anything.

    You know it makes sense!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The difference between UK and European Law...

      theft is a long established law. WEEE has been effective as law since 2007.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The difference between UK and European Law...

      I think you are slightly romantic.

    3. Terry Barnes

      Re: The difference between UK and European Law...

      You're out of date by several hundred years. All EU states are liberal democracies, meaning that which is not prohibited is permitted. Regardless, theft means the same in all countries. You can't take things that don't belong to you.

  17. Nick Mallard

    Perhaps it was just 5 old Crapple Macs sold to some silly sheeple? :D

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crazy

    I recently left the employment of a Local Authority where equipment that was 'past its life' was stored in a warehouse until there was so much of it you couldn't fit anything else in! It was never considered for donation unless a friend of the Leader or Chief exec asked...

    Once it was full, a recycling company was called to take it all away, they charged on average £15 per PC and Monitor... They wouldn't take it for free... It was then refurbished and sold on with nothing being passed back to the Council... I didn't agree with the process and asked many times if I could make a donation to the Mayors charity for some of the kit, but it was never allowed!

    I 'know' this type of stuff goes on all over the place... perhaps it's time for the LGA (Local Government Association) to come up with some guidelines that would allow the Council's to either refurbish the kit themselves, or offload it onto another company who could for a small fee per item! One way for them to raise a few £ in these hard times of redundancies etc... A few £ of old computer kit might save a job!

    1. mark 63 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Crazy

      the worst thing is, given the "obsoletion" rate (a word i just made up) any remotely useful kit will be stored until the space is full before paying to have it removed, meanwhile its gone from old-but-useable to obsolete dead weight

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    minor details

    As someone who has been involved in recycling tech kit and office refurb leftovers for a London council, the only undertaking I had to sign was a declaration that I would not be making a profit from their disposal. I achieved this by giving working flat panel monitors to silver surfer projects, and all the furniture, redundant network printers, and flooring etc to charitable tech start up organisations. What I never wanted was the underpowered computer kit with legacy CPUs, piddling hard drives, outdated wonky ram, and mobos that still supported ISA cards. The grief associated with meeting EU standards for disposal of that junk is best left to professionals, who will actually charge for the service. Landfill is not an option for anything except cases, cables, and racks, which tend to go for scrap anyway if they have any salvageable metal in them.

    If a council is shipping out pcs with removable parts worth an easy 10k second hand, I'd be concerned that they hadn't done their depreciation sums too smartly. Do IT departments not have anyone qualified to operate a Phillips screwdriver in this whizzbang modern age of technical miracles?

    1. Fatman Silver badge

      Re: Do IT departments not have anyone qualified to operate a Phillips screwdriver?

      Do you really expect bureaucrats to have any common sense? I don't!

      After all, they are the ones that come up with all kinds of bullshit the average schmoe must jump through.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do IT departments not have anyone qualified to operate a Phillips screwdriver?

        There is so much fear, Fatman, that it is just safer not to put ones head in harms way.

    2. Terry Barnes

      Re: minor details

      You'd be taking the guy with the screwdriver away from other work. How much would you have to pay him (bearing in mind employing someone costs twice what you pay them) to realise that £10K?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I work in the public sector, and we have a very good Sustainability Policy. Not only do we not use polystyrene cups, but staff may take old furniture, folders etc.. for free if they would otherwise be binned, for electrical appliances such as 5+year old computers they just have to sign a disclaimer about their takers' responsibilty for having them tested for safety and no responsibilty for employer, and must be disposed of as per WEEE regs by the taker, sold as scrap etc...

  21. K Silver badge

    "Do you have legal advice to back this up? "

    Cameron, yes, its perfectly legal to sell as long as the a) the item is exactly as described b) after-sales policy is clearly explained, understood and agreed to buy the purchaser.

    But you are completely missing the point - this has nothing to do with B2B or B2C, its about equipment being brought, not utilised and then left to rot in storage for X years. Where if an item is functioning, it should be sold on, this would reduce waste and also recoup some of the original cost. Hence a massive benefit to tax payers.

    1. Vic

      > Where if an item is functioning, it should be sold on, this would reduce waste and also

      > recoup some of the original cost.

      Not necessarily...

      Although there might be a residual value in any unwanted item, paying someone to find a buyer for it might well cost far more than could be realised by the sale. That's a net loss to taxpayers :-(

      I think it is negligent of a coucil not to have a policy by which its employees can recycle unused equipment, but that's a world away from mandating that said council is obliged to recycle *everything*...

      Vic.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Councils eliminating waste?!?

    Yeah, we've heard of that.

    Jobsworths.

  23. Corinne

    Work out the costs.....

    The article quotes £10k over a 2 year period, so around £5k a year made from selling the parts. What it doesn't say is how much time the guy spent in removing the parts, doing any remedial work needed then marketing them. To pay for someone to spend the time needed to do this is very likely to cost more than the income, especially considering the various points above regarding the legal responsibilities of selling this kit (likely ignored by the former employee).

    What seems to be a good saving of money if you do it yourself at no cost in your spare time suddenly gets somewhat expensive if you need to pay someone else to do it for you - think of things like decorating your house or doing the gardening.

  24. mark l 2 Silver badge

    The guy could actually have been done by the enviroment agency as once old electronic equipment has been classed as waste only someone with an appropriate waste carriers license can transport it to a designated site where it can be refurbished or recycled. A T11 exemption is required from the enviroment agency to do this and it cost about £800 and lasts for 3 years.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where's El Reg's Rag and Bone Man?

    I wonder if Tinker Tim can explain some of the intricacies of e-waste managment contracts, the relative value of different components and what he'd do liberally to an employee he found selling off hard drives.

  26. Marking Time

    I was cheaper for our Council to pay AU$12,000 to have 350 of our old desktop machines and Monitors taken away and crushed than to try and sell them.

  27. ukgnome Silver badge
    Facepalm

    HDD and memory

    Well when I send for the WEEE man these are the parts I keep. They then get sent to the shredder, at least that way I don't have a data leak of any kind.

    What this guy did was so dumb, on occasions like this it's best to know a waste recycler and go legitimate if you can.

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