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Info Commissioner pleads with Tories to jail data thieves

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The data protection watchdog has strongly urged an incoming Tory government to quickly bring in jail sentences for data thieves, after the current government reneged on the idea.

Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, campaigned last year for custodial powers already on the statute books under the Data Protection Act to be activated. The Labour government agreed to consult on the move, and said it planned to go ahead this April.

However, last month it quietly decided there would not be enough Parliamentary time before the election.

Yesterday Graham said the decision was "really stopping me doing my job".

At a conference in London, he urged the Conservatives to act if they win the election. Speaking from the floor, he told Baroness Neville-Jones, the shadow security minister, of his frustration.

"It's there to be taken off the shelf," he said. "But there has been remarkable reluctance by ministers to take it."

He said he would be banging on Tory ministers' doors on May 7 if the win the election, expected on May 6.

In his earlier speech to the conference Graham said he would strongly urge whoever wins the election to bring in the custodial sentences. The dormant legislation would allow judges to send data criminals to jail for up to two years.

While civil fines for corporate negligence under the Data Protection Act have recently been boosted to up to £500,000. The maximum sentence is currently an unlimited fine, but in practice penalties have typically been in the low hundreds of pounds. ®

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