Kent Police have been bludgeoned with a £100,000 fine after a major cock-up saw confidential information – including police interview tapes – left in a former police station and due to be viewed for a laugh.
The highly sensitive information included records relating back to the Eighties, and was thought to have been left at the site when the building was vacated in July 2009.
The balls-up was only discovered when a police officer visited a business owner at the premises about an unrelated matter on November 27 2012 and noticed a pile of tapes with the Kent Police logo on them.
The business owner confirmed he had found the tapes in the basement of the old police station, after purchasing the site two months before, and was planning on watching them for entertainment.
The police service visited the site of the old station the next day and recovered hundreds of additional documents and evidence tapes. These included recorded interviews with informants, crime victims and individuals who had subsequently been convicted. The documents also included information about police staff.
The Information Commissioner’s Office investigation found that Kent Police had no guidance or procedures in place to make sure personal information was securely removed from former premises. The problem was made worse due to an apparent breakdown in communications between the various departments involved in the move.
ICO head of enforcement Stephen Eckersley said: “If this information had fallen into the wrong hands the impact on people’s lives would have been enormous and damaging. These tapes and files included extremely sensitive and confidential information relating to individuals, many of whom had been involved in serious and violent crimes. How a police force could leave such information unattended in a basement for several years is difficult to understand.
“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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