Police database abuse ‘hugely intrusive’

News 8 Jul, 2011

The Big Brother Watch finds 900 police officers and staff breached the Data Protection Act in the last three years.

Police abuse of databases has been branded “hugely intrusive” after a report found hundreds of officers had broken the law in accessing important information.

Over 900 police officers and staff in the UK were subject to internal disciplinary procedures for breaching the Data Protection Act (DPA) over the past three years, the Big Brother Watch revealed.

After putting in a host of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests with forces across the UK, the Big Brother Watched discovered 98 police officers and staff were fired for breaching the Act.

The data also showed 243 received criminal convictions for breaking laws set down by the DPA.

“Our investigation shows that not only have police employees been found to have run background records checks on friends and possible partners, but some have been convicted for passing sensitive information to criminal gangs and drug dealers,” said Daniel Hamilton, director of the Big Brother Watch.

“This is at best hugely intrusive and, at worse, downright dangerous. Police forces must adopt a zero tolerance approach to this kind of behaviour. Those found guilty of abusing their position should be sacked on the spot.”

The Merseyside force had a particularly poor record, with a total of 208 police officers and staff receiving legal cautions for “viewing a computer record relating to a high profile arrest.”

In Nottinghamshire, a police sergeant was sent to jail for 12 months after being found guilty of accessing police systems in order to obtain personal data for non policing purposes.

In Lancashire, a member of police staff was sacked after disclosing confidential policing information on Facebook. A co-worker in the same authority was given a final written warning for conducting 53 criminal records checks for “no obvious policing purpose.”

This week saw allegations former Downing Street head of communications Andy Coulson paid the police for access to privileged information.

Last month saw the launch of a new Police National Database, containing the details of between 10 and 15 million people.