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Probation officer gets TINY fine for spilling domestic violence victim's ADDRESS

Coughs £150 for handing out data... to alleged perp

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A probation officer who disclosed a domestic abuse victim’s new address to her alleged abuser has been fined £150 and order to pay court costs after being prosecuted and given what has been described by Information Commissioner Christopher Graham as "a relatively minor penalty".

Data privacy watchdogs at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), who brought the prosecution, criticised the current sentencing regime for the paltry sanction it could impose on Victoria Idowu, 39, whose penalty will not be reflected on her record.

Idowu claimed she handed over the victim’s full name, address and date of birth, along with information about the investigating officer, in the mistaken belief that the suspect already knew this information. Her defence was that she wanted to avoid a case of mistaken identity.

The ICO said the victim subsequently contacted police on 6 January 2013, the day the information was illegally provided, in a distressed state, alarmed at the fact her alleged abuser knew where she was staying. The victim severed all contact with the police and the other services involved after losing faith in the authorities over the incident. As a result, the investigation into the alleged perpetrator was dropped, the ICO added.

Idowu, who had worked at the London Probation Trust since October 2005, was found guilty of gross misconduct following an internal disciplinary hearing into the incidents and sacked. She was also was prosecuted under section 55 of the Data Protection Act.

At a hearing at Camberwell Green Magistrates Court last Thursday, Idowu was fined £150 and ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge and a £250 contribution towards costs for the data protection offences.

Unlawfully obtaining or accessing personal data is a criminal offence, under the aforementioned Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. The offence is punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 in a magistrates' court or an unlimited fine in a Crown court.

In a statement, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of Idowu's data breach prosecution.

"Idowu escaped with only a relatively minor penalty and no criminal record. The government must act now to introduce tougher penalties for individuals who illegally access and disclose personal information.

"This is not just a criminal breach of the Data Protection Act, but it also led to a police investigation of alleged domestic abuse being dropped," he added. ®

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