Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Police hit with record £160,000 fine for losing DVDs of a victim's 'graphic and disturbing' account of being sexually abused as a child

A police force has been fined a record £160,000 for losing footage of an interview with a sex abuse victim.

South Wales Police was hit with the penalty after unencrypted DVDs containing video of the woman's 'graphic and disturbing' account went missing from a desk drawer.

The recorded interview took place in August 2011 and the loss was discovered by staff after an office move in October that year.

But the security breach was not reported for nearly two years due to a 'lack of training', the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said.

A second interview with the victim, who was abused as a child, had to be abandoned due to her distress.

The DVDs, which show her face clearly throughout, have still not been recovered. Victims of sexual abuse are automatically entitled to anonymity for life.

After being informed of the breach the woman made a formal complaint and argued it could have affected the outcome of the case. The defendants were ultimately convicted and sentenced.

It is the third time the ICO has taken such action against a police force.

Anne Jones, assistant commissioner for Wales, said: 'Without any doubt we would expect a professional police force, in a position of trust, dealing with this type of highly sensitive information from victims and witnesses on a daily basis to have robust procedures to keep track of the personal data in their care.

'The organisation has failed to take all appropriate measures against the unauthorised processing and accidental loss of personal data.

'This breach is extremely serious and despite guidance from our office, the Ministry of Justice and Association of Chief Police Officers stating it is essential to have a policy on storing this sort of information they still haven't fully addressed the issue.

'The monetary penalty given to South Wales Police should send a clear message that organisations have to take responsibility for personal data and the way in which it is stored.'

Yvonne Traynor, CEO of Rape Crisis South London, said the force had been 'unprofessional and careless'. She said: 'I find it hard to believe that a professional body can be so insensitive to lose a vital interview with a survivor of sexual violence. 'It takes a lot of strength to report to the police and to provide video evidence takes time and a lot of inner courage which she will now have to redo.

'Careless doesn't even begin to describe how unprofessional this unit have behaved. I hope it does not deter other survivors from coming forward to report this heinous crime.'

The police force has now been asked to sign an undertaking to ensure changes are made to implement policies to stop any incidents happening again.

Assistant Chief Constable Richard Lewis said: 'South Wales Police takes its responsibilities for the management and security of information extremely seriously and has apologised to the victim in this case.

'Once it was apparent what had happened South Wales Police voluntarily referred the details to the ICO and launched a full investigation into this incident. 'As a result two officers have subsequently been given management advice and training.

'This is the first incident of a serious nature regarding loss of sensitive data for South Wales Police and unlike similar incidents which have occurred nationally, where materials have been lost in a public place, the DVDs were stored in a secure area of a police station to which access is restricted.'

He added that South Wales Police may consider an appeal against the penalty.

Original report here

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