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Council worker fined for unlawfully accessing social services records


Mark Say Managing Editor

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A former family intervention officer at St Helens Borough Council has been fined by a magistrate’s court for unlawfully accessing social services records.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has highlighted the case in which Rachel Anderton was prosecuted for viewing records on the council’s case management system between January and October 2019 without having a business need to do so.

An internal council audit found the defendant unlawfully looked at the records of 145 people whilst employed in the social services department. Anderton resigned from the council before disciplinary proceedings commenced.

Last week she appeared before Wigan and Leigh Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to one of offence of unlawfully obtaining person data, in breach of the Data Protection Act. She was fined £92, ordered to pay court costs of £385 and a victim surcharge of £32.

Right to privacy

Andy Curry, head of investigations at the ICO, commented: “People have the absolute right to expect that their sensitive personal information will be treated with the utmost privacy and in accordance with data protection laws. For some reason, this individual chose to flout those laws and spend time snooping at people’s sensitive personal information.

“Not respecting people’s legal right to privacy can have serious consequences, as this case shows. It results in a criminal conviction, which may lead to loss of employment and severe damage to future career prospects, alongside the accompanying financial penalties.

“Our successful prosecution of this individual sends a clear message - that we will take action against people who take it upon themselves to abuse their position of trust.”

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