Police admit 70 data breaches

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Police chiefs in South Yorkshire have defended the force’s record for abiding by the Data Protection Act – despite admitting officers and staff have breached the rules on 70 occasions.

Forces across the country have released details, under the Freedom of Information Act, of how many times data breaches occurred during a four year period.

Between 2009 and 2013 police officers and staff in South Yorkshire were pulled up on 70 occasions.

On one occasion last year the breach was deemed so serious a member of staff was sacked for passing on information to a third party.

And in 2010 a PCSO was dismissed for unlawfully obtaining information from police systems.

Bosses also issued six final written warnings for breaches, including one to a police officer who was found to have made checks on a police system ‘without legitimate reasons’.

Two officers received ‘words of advice’ for disclosing who had reported a crime.

And in 2012 a PC and a Detective Constable were given ‘words of advice’ after they were found to have conducted a check on a vehicle for non-policing purposes.

A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “South Yorkshire Police needs to use personal information to police the county effectively and the collection, recording, use and removal of data comes with the highest level of responsibility.

“The force takes its obligations in respect of the Data Protection Act extremely seriously and in the relatively few cases where officers and staff fall short of the standards expected, robust misconduct processes are in place with sanctions ranging from words of advice to dismissal in the most serious cases.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office, which upholds information rights among public bodies, said “Police officers and civilian staff can have access to substantial collections of often highly sensitive personal information.

“It is important that they do not abuse this access and only use the information for their policing duties.

“Public officials who abuse their positions can face serious consequences including criminal prosecution under the Data Protection Act.”