So, once again we hear of police officers, at all levels it would appear, using the PNC to access information on other people for their own ends and gains. This is becoming an all too common affair now and one that the Information Commissioner should really be stamping down on hard and looking for more support from Government to strengthen S.55 of the Act to introduce custodial sentences for those who flout the law!
It was interesting that several police officers were caught following the News of the World scandal and that it has come to light they were selling the information held on the PNC for their own profit to the journalists. This has gone on for years though and sadly we are seeing it on the increase as it is easier for people to fall into the trap of ‘I will not get caught’. However, this type of action is being seen as less of a sweep-it-under-the-carpet problem and more of a let’s tell the world one.
What really astonished me recently though, was the police officer who used the PNC for his own sexual gratification rather than selling on data. He was caught accessing the details of single women who had reported crimes and basically using the system as a dating service for himself, despite being married. Accessing the data is one thing but using it like this is such a betrayal of trust that I think the Act really does need beefing up and preventing this sort of tempting horse play to occur again!!
The Information Commissioner needs to look at his Act and realise that it is not much more than a paper tiger really, when it comes down to brass tacks. Yes, he has the powers to fine large companies for breaches but what about the ‘criminals’ who actually do breach like this? They are still constrained by a maximum fine of £5000 in the Sheriff/Magistrate Courts and an unlimited fine in the High/Crown Courts. But just how many people really get punished through these routes? I would reckon that there are hardly any prosecutions nowadays other than for non-compliance with the notification process, which is hardly a criminal act compared to what is going on elsewhere…..
Things need to improve with The Data Protection Act, either repeal it and re-write it, as happened before or beef it up and get S.55 fully engaged and give this Act of Parliament some real powers before it is too late. I know this has gone to the parliament before and they knocked it back but why? Out of self-interest protection or something more that nobody is telling us about? What have the Parliament got to hide? Is there something lurking in those chambers that might cause an explosion that Guido Fawkes failed to ignite? So many questions that need answering and ones that I feel we should all be asking of the UK Government and local MPs else we will also find ourselves being brushed off by the Home Secretary along with the European Convention on Human Rights!!
So let us look at and lobby for greater powers under S.55, to enable custodial sentences and criminal acts to be recognised as such, rather than fine the poor unfortunates who may have not realised or forgotten to renew their notification. The true criminals are the people that illegally access the information then use it for their own means, not the Mandarins who sit so high up the food chain that beef and horse have no sway on them! If we can target them we can stop this cancer that is starting to eat into our very rights structure, before it transpires that someone has been killed through this criminal negligence.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts