Kent Police fined £100k for abandoning confidential interview tapes

The ICO served the £100,000 fine to Gravesend Police after the tapes were found in disused offices.

Data protection

Gravesend Police Force has been served a 100,000 fine after abandoning confidential information in the basement of an old police station.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) imposed the fine after the police force left a number of items including confidential police interview tapes in the offices.

A police officer found them when the owner received a visit on an unrelated matter in 2012 three years after the police force left the property. The building's new owner said he was "planning on watching them for entertainment".

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Following a full search of the property, police found hundreds of confidential documents and videos including interviews with victims, informants and convicted criminals.

ICO head of enforcement Stephen Eckersley said if the information had fallen into the wrong hands, the impact on people's lives would have been enormous and damaging.

"How a police force could leave such information unattended in a basement for several years is difficult to understand," Eckersley said. Ultimately, this breach was a result of a clear lack of oversight, information governance and guidance from Kent Police which led to sensitive information being abandoned. It is only good fortune that the mistake was uncovered when it was and the information hasn't fallen into the wrong hands."

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Last year, the ICO served a number of fines on the public sector for allowing confidential information to leak into the public domain. East Lincolnshire Council, Stockport PCT and Surrey NHS all received fines ranging from 80,000 to 200,000 for incorrectly disposing of, or storing personal data.

The ICO stepped up its enforcement activities at the beginning of 2013, but many critics believe imposing fines is not the most effective way to improve data protection. Instead, the ICO should be investing time in increasing public awareness of the problem.

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