The Lancashire Constabulary has been fined £70,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after papers containing sensitive information about a 15 year old girl. This is the first penalty the ICO has served to a police force.
The missing person’s report was discovered by a member of the public on 23 July 2011. The report had previously been used by an officer trying to locate the missing youth and is thought to have been left in a police vehicle from which it appears to have fallen onto the floor several days later.
The document included the girl’s age, address, contact information and sexuality and also mentioning that she’d previously been raped. Personal details relating to 14 other individuals – including the girl’s original attacker – were also included in the report.
Steve Eckersley, Head of Enforcement said:
“The fact that information as sensitive as this could go missing without anybody realising is extremely worrying, and shows that Lancashire Constabulary
failed to have the necessary governance, policies and suitable training in place to keep the personal information they handle secure.
“The loss of this information and the news that it had been leaked to a local newspaper is likely to have been extremely distressing for all involved.
“While we are pleased that Lancashire Constabulary has agreed to take action to make sure people’s information is safe, it is vitally important that police forces have effective data protection policies in place for electronic and paper based systems, if they are to operate with the trust and confidence of the public they serve. This includes keeping a record of where personal information is being stored and used.”
The ICO’s investigation found that the Lancashire Constabulary did not record when sensitive personal information was taken outside of the police station. Officers were not provided with secure bags for storing personal information and received no specific training on how to look after hard copy documents outside the station.