Suffolk: Two police employees quit over data breaches

Two Suffolk police employees resigned and another was given a final written warning over illegal data breaches, The Evening Star can exclusively reveal.

Breaches involving personal data at Suffolk police have soared over the last three years, from just three in 2008 to a dozen last year.

The hike in unlawful disclosures of personal information came to light following a Freedom of Information request to Suffolk Constabulary.

The force said one officer quit in 2009 after making “an unlawful disclosure of information”.

Another resignation followed last year – this time a police employee for “an unlawful disclosure after viewing personal data on police systems”. An identical breach, also in 2010, saw another police staff member given a final written warning.

Meanwhile, The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – which promotes data privacy for individuals – investigated four alleged breaches at Suffolk police last year. But all cases were closed due to a lack of information from the complainant or the ICO ruling the force had complied with the act.

A spokesman for the ICO added: “Police officers and civilian staff can have access to substantial collections of often highly sensitive personal information.

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“It is important that they do not abuse this access and only use the information for their policing duties.

“We expect police forces to make substantial proactive efforts to check that any access to their records is for legitimate police purposes and to take action where they discover wrongdoing.

“Public officials who abuse their positions can face serious consequences including criminal prosecution under the Data Protection Act.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said: “Suffolk Constabulary is proactive in awareness raising and monitoring information to ensure that any member of staff who compromises the trust we have with public information is dealt with accordingly.

“All suspected breaches of the Data Protection Act are thoroughly investigated by the Professional Standards Department and any staff member or officer involved in any breach will face an internal discipline process and as a result may be subject to internal sanctions such as written warnings or dismissal and will instigate criminal proceedings as necessary with the consent of the Information Commissioner or Crown Prosecution Service.”