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News release: 15 August 2013
A probation officer who revealed a domestic abuse victim’s new address to the alleged perpetrator has been fined £150 following a prosecution bought by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Victoria Idowu claimed that she provided the victim’s full name, new address and date of birth, along with the details of the investigating officer, as she believed that the individual already knew this information and she was keen to avoid a case of mistaken identity.
The victim subsequently contacted the investigating officer on 6 January 2013 - the day the information was illegally provided - in a distressed state confirming that the perpetrator was now aware of their new address. The victim broke off all contact with the police and the other services involved, believing that they could no longer be trusted. The investigation against the alleged perpetrator was subsequently dropped.
Appearing at Camberwell Green Magistrates Court today, 39-year-old Victoria Idowu was prosecuted under section 55 of the Data Protection Act and fined £150 and ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge and a £250 contribution towards costs.
Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said:
“This is the unpleasant but unremarkable face of data protection crime – not journalists, not lawyers, just individuals for whom the current sentencing regime holds no terror.
“Ms Idowu escaped with only a relatively minor penalty and no criminal record. The government must act now to introduce tougher penalties for individuals who illegally access and disclose personal information.
“This is not just a criminal breach of the Data Protection Act, but it also led to a police investigation of alleged domestic abuse being dropped.”
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, to be available to the courts to stop the unlawful use of personal information.
Ms Idowu, who had worked at the trust since October 2005, has already been the subject of disciplinary proceedings by London Probation Trust, which resulted in her employment being terminated due to gross misconduct.
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.