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

From the Information Commissioner’s Office, an enforcement action in a troubling breach incident:

Humberside Police has been fined £130,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after disks containing a video interview of an alleged rape victim went missing.

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.

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