Crown Prosecution Service takes a £325,000 hit after mislaying recordings of interviews with victims of child sex abuse
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has been fined £325,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for losing unencrypted DVDs with recordings of police interviews with 15 victims of child sex abuse, to be used at the trial.
This is the second penalty imposed on the CPS following the loss of sensitive video recordings.
The ICO said the DVDs contained intimate details of the victims, as well as the sensitive personal data of the perpetrator, and some identifying information about other parties.
They were sent by tracked delivery between two CPS offices, with the recipient being in a shared building. The delivery was made outside office hours, and the DVDs – which were not in tamper-proof packaging – were left in the reception.
Although the building’s entry doors were locked, anyone with access to the building could access this reception area. It is not known what has happened to the DVDs.
The incident occurred in November 2016 but it was not discovered that they were lost until December. The CPS notified the victims in March 2017 and reported the loss to the ICO the following month.
The ICO ruled that the CPS was negligent when it failed to ensure the videos were kept safe, and did not take into account the substantial distress that would be caused if the videos were lost.
It also found that, despite being fined £200,000 following a separate breach in November 2015 – in which victim and witness video evidence was also lost – the CPS had not ensured that appropriate care was being taken to avoid similar breaches re-occurring.
Steve Eckersley, the ICO’s head of enforcement, said: “The victims of serious crimes entrusted the CPS to look after their highly sensitive personal data - a loss in trust could influence victims’ willingness to report serious crimes.
“The CPS failed to take basic steps to protect the data of victims of serious sexual offences. Given the nature of the personal data, it should have been obvious that this information must be properly safeguarded, as its loss could cause substantial distress.
“The CPS must take urgent action to demonstrate that it can be trusted with the most sensitive information.”
The ICO added that the CPS has self-identified systemic failings and is now taking action to remedy them.
The CPS is not the only law enforcement agency to be fined for losing sensitive DVDs - year ago a similar fate befell Manchester Police, which suffered a £150,000 penalty for losing recordings interviews with victims of violent or sexual crimes.
Image by Rob Davies, CC BY 2.0 through flickr