Misuse of Private Information: ICO fines CPS £200,000 following theft of sex attack victims' interview videos
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has been fined £200,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for failing to take adequate data protection steps to ensure that video interviews of sex attack victims were stored securely.
Interviews of 43 victims and witnesses were stored on two laptops that were stolen in a burglary in September 2014. The videos were in the process of being edited by a Manchester-based video production company for use in 31 sets of criminal proceedings. It is understood that most of the videos related to allegations of sexual assault, including allegations against one high-profile individual.
The video production company was using a residential studio without an alarm. Whilst the laptops were password protected, they were left on a desk unencrypted. The laptops were recovered from the burglar a week later by the police.
The CPS reported the matter to the ICO and informed the individuals involved. The ICO received complaints from three affected people.
The ICO also found that the methods of transporting interviews to the production company - couriering unencrypted DVDs or collection using public transport - had been a continuing breach of Data Protection Principles which had occurred for 12 years.
ICO Head of Enforcement Stephen Eckersley, said:
“Handling videos of police interviews containing highly sensitive personal data is central to what the CPS does. The CPS was aware of the graphic and distressing nature of the personal data contained in the videos, but was complacent in protecting that information....The consequences of failing to keep that data safe should have been obvious to them.”
Responding to the finding, a CPS spokesman stated:-
A CPS spokesperson said:-
"It is a matter of real regret that sensitive information was not held more securely by our external contractor, and that we, as an organisation, failed to ensure that it was. We are grateful that the material was recovered without being accessed by those who stole the computer equipment but accept that this was fortuitous. It is vital that victims of crime feel confident that breaches like this will not happen and, following a full review after this incident, we have strengthened the arrangements for the safe and secure handling of sensitive material."
A copy of the ICO's monetary notice can be found here.
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