Warning for workers after charity employee is prosecuted for data protection offences

8 Nov 2017 08:42 PM

People working with personal information have been warned they have to obey strict privacy laws after a charity worker was prosecuted for making his own copies of sensitive data.

Robert Morrisey, 63, sent spreadsheets containing the information of vulnerable clients to his personal email address without the knowledge of the data controller, his employer the Rochdale Connections Trust.

The defendant sent 11 emails from his work email account on 22 February 2017, which contained the sensitive personal data of 183 people, three of whom were children. The personal data included full names, dates of birth, telephone numbers and medical information. Further investigation showed that he had sent a similar database to his personal account on 14 June 2016.

Morrisey, of Milnrow, Rochdale, appeared at Preston Crown Court and admitted unlawfully obtaining personal data in breach of Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. He was given a conditional discharge for two years and was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,845.25, as well as a victim surcharge of £15.

Steve Eckersley, Head of Enforcement at the Information Commissioner’s Office, which brought the prosecution, said:

“People have a right to expect that when they share their personal information with an organisation, it will be handled properly and legally. That is especially so when it is sensitive personal data.

“People whose jobs give them access to this type of information need to realise that just because they can access it, that doesn’t mean they should. They need to have a valid legal reason for doing so. Copying sensitive personal information without the necessary permission isn’t a valid reason.”

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.
  3. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law that will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 and will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.
  4. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  5. 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;
    • secure; and
    • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
  6. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  7. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  8. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.