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ICO fines South Wales Police £160,000 for data breach

Interview with victim lost after office move, but unreported for two years.

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South Wales Police has been fined £160,000 for losing video evidence of a child sexual abuse case after DVDs were left unencrypted in a desk draw.

The discs, which contained an interview with the victim filmed in August 2011, were lost after the force moved offices in October of that year, a mistake that went unreported for two years due to a lack of training.

Though the DVDs in question were stored in a secure part of the building which had to be accessed through an electronic keypad, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that no standard policy for storing such material had been put in place.

In the interview the victim’s face can be clearly seen throughout the recording, and both perpetrators of the crime, who were later convicted, are identified.

Under British law victims of sexual crime are granted automatic lifetime anonymity as soon as they make a complaint, and the loss of such information is regarded seriously by the data regulator.

Anne Jones, assistant commissioner for Wales at the ICO said: "Without any doubt we would expect a professional police force, in a position of trust, dealing with this type of highly sensitive information from victims and witnesses on a daily basis to have robust procedures to keep track of the personal data in their care.

"This breach is extremely serious and despite guidance from our office, the Ministry of Justice and Association of Chief Police Officers stating it is essential to have a policy on storing this sort of information they still haven’t fully addressed the issue."
Though the police force made "extensive searches" of the offices to find the DVDs none could be recovered.

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This meant the Crown Prosecution Service had to rely on written notes of the interview and a witness statement, since a follow-up video interview had to be abandoned because the victim became too distressed.

As well as receiving a fine, South Wales Police has been ordered to ensure that it changes its policy to stop similar incidents happening in the future.

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