Information Commissioner Prosecutes Probation Officer for Data Protection Breach

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The Information Commissioner has called for more severe sentences for individual Data Protection offences following the conviction of a London probation officer under for contravention of the Data Protection Act 1998.

The offence was committed when the probation officer gave out the full name and address of a person alleging domestic violence to the alleged perpetrator of that violence. When the victim found out she broke off contact with the police and other organisations because she lost trust in them and the case against the alleged perpetrator was dropped.

The fine was a small one of £150 plus costs of £250 and a victim surcharge of £20.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: “The government must act now to introduce tougher penalties for individuals who illegally access and disclose personal information. This is not just a criminal breach of the Data Protection Act, but it also led to a police investigation of alleged domestic abuse being dropped.”

The Information Commissioner argued that heavier fines and potential prison sentences should be used to deter individuals from committing the offences of unlawfully obtaining and disclosing information.

The ICO’s most recent annual report cites a case of a GP’s receptionist being fined over £1000 for obtaining patient information to use in a personal dispute and that is more the level of penalty the ICO seems likely to pursue in future.

While the personal objectives of the offender may be relevant to the penalty imposed, the ICO is making plain its intention to police the individual offences under the Data Protection Act just as much as the rules applicable to businesses and other organisations acting as data controllers.

For advice on Data Protection law and practice contact the Business Law Team at Forbes.

Daniel Milnes

About Daniel Milnes

Dan is a Partner and Head of Contracts & Projects. Dan’s blogs cover the areas in which his specialities lie in commercial, regulatory and governance law which cover a broad range of matters dealing with contracts, projects, corporate and group structures, funding and compliance with a range of legal regimes including data protection. This also involves writing and advising on various forms of commercial contracts including joint ventures, development and construction agreements and intellectual property contracts including IT agreements, sponsorships and other rights licensing arrangements.
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