Teenage girl put ‘at greater risk’ by police data sharing of information, judge rules

A police force put a teenage girl “at greater risk” by letting a business forum know she was vulnerable to child sexual exploitation, a High Court judge has ruled.

Details about the 16-year-old were given by Sussex Police to a forum of more than 500 retailers, security firms and pubs as part of an initiative aimed at tackling crime.

Mrs Justice Lieven found that the force’s sharing of two emails with a local Business Crime Reduction Partnership (BCRP) breached the teenager’s rights under the Data Protection Act.

Sussex Police denied that the information it shared with the group, much of which related to the girl’s criminal activity, had identified her as being at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

But, in a ruling given in London on Monday, the judge said that putting the two emails together, it was “plain” the force gave the BCRP information about her being vulnerable and at risk of sexual exploitation.

She said: “It is easy to see why this was of considerable concern, particularly to the local authority, given that there is a very obvious risk that by sharing this information the police were exposing her to greater risk.”

The judge said any benefit in sharing this information “might be limited”.

She added: “The defendant may argue that they were seeking to protect her, but there is no evidence that the defendant properly weighed up the impact on the claimant of sharing this information, or whether there were sufficient safeguards to ensure against onward transmission.

“In particular, there is no evidence that the defendant addressed its mind to the particular importance of not sharing information of this nature about a child.”

Mrs Justice Lieven said the teenager was excluded from local business premises after being reported for a number of incidents of violence, theft or anti-social behaviour.

The Official Solicitor, acting on the girl’s behalf, had challenged the force’s decision to share a raft of information – including a photograph and details of her bail conditions – with the BCRP.

However, save for the information about her being at risk of CSE, the judge concluded that the sharing of other information with the group was lawful.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Yui Mok / PA Wire.

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