Warning to police staff as force fined £130,000 for losing rape victim interview

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Warning to police staff as force fined £130,000 for losing rape victim interview

Humberside Police has been fined £130,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)

The three unencrypted disks and accompanying paperwork were left in an envelope on an officer’s desk. The bundle contained the victim’s name, date of birth and signature as well as details about the alleged rape itself, the victim’s mental health and the suspect’s name and address.

The envelope was due to be posted to Cleveland Police but never arrived. It is not known whether the package was actually sent.

An ICO investigation found:

  • Humberside Police failed to encrypt the disks before sending (or intending to send) by unsecure mail;
  • Humberside Police failed to maintain a detailed audit trail of the package;
  • The Protecting Vulnerable People Unit within Humberside Police failed to adhere to its ‘Information Security Policy’ in relation to removable media.

Steve Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement, said:

“We see far too many cases where police forces fail to look after disks containing the highly sensitive personal information contained within victim or witness interviews.

“Anyone working in a police force has a duty to stop and think whenever they handle personal details – making sure they are using the most appropriate method for transferring information and considering the consequences of it being lost before going ahead. Staff training in this area is vital.”

He added:

“Police forces deal with such sensitive information that when things go wrong, it’s likely to be serious. This case shows how crucial it is to keep a clear record of what’s been sent, when and who to.

Humberside Police, headquartered in Hull, has also been asked by the ICO to sign a commitment to take steps to improve its data protection practices.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  1. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  1. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  1. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law which will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The Government has confirmed the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR. The Government is introducing measures related to this and wider data protection reforms in a Data Protection Bill.
  1. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
  • fairly and lawfully processed;
  • processed for limited purposes;
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive;
  • accurate and up to date;
  • not kept for longer than is necessary;
  • processed in line with your rights;
  • secure; and
  • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
  1. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  1. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  1. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.

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