ICO Calls for prison sentences for unlawful use of personal information

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), announced yesterday that it has prosecuted a former receptionist at a GP surgery in Southampton for unlawfully obtaining sensitive medical information relating to her es-husband’s new wife.

Marcia Philips was fined £750 and ordered to pay £15 victim surcharge and £400 prosecution costs following her prosecution under section 55 of the Data Protection Act. Some would argue that she got off lightly as the maximum fine that a Magistrates Court can currently issue is £5000 – and is unlimited in a Crown Court.

The ICO seem to agree

The ICO must think this fine is not enough. They continue to call for more effective deterrent sentences, including jail terms, to stop the unlawful use of personal information.

“We continue to urge the Government to press ahead with the introduction of tougher penalties to enforce the Data Protection Act. Without these unscrupulous individuals will continue to break the law. Action to replace the section 55 ‘fine only’ regime with an effective deterrent is long overdue.”
David Smith – Deputy Commissioner and Director of Data Protection.