Information Commissioner's Office
Pharmacist who unlawfully spied on family and friends’ medical records prosecuted
A pharmacist who worked for South West Essex Primary Care Trust has been prosecuted by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after unlawfully accessing the medical records of family members, work colleagues and local health professionals.
Appearing at Barkingside Magistrates Court yesterday, Harkanwarjit Dhanju, 50, was prosecuted under section 55 of the Data Protection Act and fined £1000, ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge and £608.30 prosecution costs.
Dhanju unlawfully accessed the patients’ records while working as a sessional pharmacist at Tile House Surgery, Mount Avenue Surgery and Rockleigh Court Surgery. At the time, Dhanju had responsibility for handling medication reviews for patients in local residential care homes with dementia and other mental health issues. However, during a routine audit, the surgery manager at Tile House Surgery uncovered that Dhanju was using his security pass to access unrelated medical records. The matter was reported to the ICO on 22 February 2013.
ICO Head of Enforcement, Stephen Eckersley, said:
“There is no justifiable reason why Dhanju needed to spy on the medical treatment of all of these people. However, he knew he was committing a criminal offence but he decided to carry on regardless.
“The public will be rightly concerned that a medical professional in a position of trust decided to act in this way. We hope today’s prosecution sends a clear message to anyone who may be tempted to do likewise, that unlawfully accessing people’s medical records is a criminal offence and will result with you being rewarded with a day in court.”
Unlawfully obtaining or accessing personal data is a criminal offence under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. The offence is punishable by way of ‘fine only’ - up to £5,000 in a Magistrates Court or an unlimited fine in a Crown Court. The ICO continues to call for more effective deterrent sentences, including the threat of prison in the most serious cases, to be available to the courts to stop the unlawful use of personal information.
Notes to Editors
1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
4. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
- Fairly and lawfully processed
- Processed for limited purposes
- Adequate, relevant and not excessive
- Accurate and up to date
- Not kept for longer than is necessary
- Processed in line with your rights
- Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection
5. If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070
Latest News from
Information Commissioner's Office
“This needs to be dealt with.” - ICO issues Enforcement Notice to City of York Council over FOI backlog21/09/2023 16:25:00
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued an Enforcement Notice to City of York Council to clear its backlog of 261 unanswered Freedom of Information requests
ICO issues half a million pounds in new fines as fight to tackle illegal nuisance calls continues21/09/2023 15:25:00
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued fines totalling £590,000 to five companies for collectively making 1.9 million unwanted marketing calls which targeted the elderly and people with vulnerabilities.
Share information to protect children and young people at risk, urges UK Information Commissioner15/09/2023 10:15:00
Organisations will not get in trouble if they share information to protect children and young people at risk of serious harm, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has promised.
Former social services council employee fined for unlawfully accessing sensitive personal data14/09/2023 09:15:00
A former family intervention officer at St Helens Borough Council has been sentenced for unlawfully accessing social services records.
UK Information Commissioner and NCSC CEO sign Memorandum of Understanding13/09/2023 13:10:00
The UK Information Commissioner, John Edwards, and the Chief Executive of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), Lindy Cameron, yesterday signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that sets out how both organisations will cooperate.
ICO to review period and fertility tracking apps as poll shows more than half of women are concerned over data security07/09/2023 16:20:00
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is reviewing period and fertility apps as new figures show more than half of women have concerns over data security
ICO publishes new guidance on sending bulk communications by email31/08/2023 16:20:00
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) yesterday issued a warning to organisations to use alternatives to the blind carbon copy (BCC) email function when sending emails containing sensitive personal information, following a catalogue of business blunders.
Joint statement on data scraping and data protection25/08/2023 09:10:00
The Information Commissioner’s Office and eleven other data protection and privacy authorities from around the world have today published a joint statement calling for the protection of people’s personal data from unlawful data scraping taking place on social media sites.
One in three young people falling prey to ‘text pests‘ as ICO calls for victims to come forward22/08/2023 14:10:00
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has today launched a call for victims of so-called ‘text pests’ to come forward to help the regulator gather evidence of the impact of this illegal behaviour.