Police force fined £80,000 over email data breach identifying child abuse victims

A police force has been fined £80,000 after an officer sent a bulk email identifying victims of non-recent child abuse.

The email was sent to 56 recipients by an officer from Gloucestershire Police who was investigating allegations of abuse against multiple complainants.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said the unnamed officer, whose rank was not revealed, was sending an update on the case in December 2016 to complainants, witnesses, lawyers and journalists.

Instead of using the blind carbon copy (BCC) function on their email account they entered the email addresses in the “To” field, which meant their details were shared with other recipients.

The email also made reference to schools and other organisations being investigated in relation to the allegations.

Of the 56 emails sent, all but one was considered deliverable.

Three were confirmed to have been successfully recalled once the force identified the breach two days later, so 56 names and email addresses were visible to up to 52 recipients.

Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner’s Office, said: “This was a serious breach of the data protection laws and one which was likely to cause substantial distress to vulnerable victims of abuse, many of whom were also legally entitled to lifelong anonymity.

“The risks relating to the sending of bulk emails are long established and well known, so there was no excuse for the force to break the law – especially when such sensitive and confidential information was involved.”

The case was dealt with under the provisions and maximum penalties of the Data Protection Act 1998, and not the 2018 Act which has replaced it, because of the date of the breach. The maximum financial penalty in civil cases under the previous legislation is £500,000.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Anthony Devlin / PA Wire.