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Kent Police fined £100k for leaving interview vids of informants in old cop shop

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Kent Police have been fined £100,000 after interview tapes and other confidential information were found abandoned at a former police station.

The highly sensitive information, including records going back to the 1980s, was left in the basement of a former police station when it was vacated in July 2009.

The cock-up was discovered when a police officer was visiting a business owner about an unrelated matter on November 2012, when he noticed a pile of tapes with a Kent Police logo stuck on them.

"The business owner confirmed that 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," a statement by data privacy watchdogs at the ICO explains.

Hundreds of additional documents and evidence tapes were recovered the following day when police visited. The information trove included recorded interviews with police informants, victims of crime and suspects who had subsequently been convicted. The documents also included information about police staff.

A subsequent ICO investigation faulted Kent Police for the absence of any guidance or procedures in place to make sure personal information was securely removed from former police premises. The problem was exacerbated as the result of an apparent breakdown in communications between the various departments involved in the move.

The ICO's 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,” Eckersley continued, “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.” ®

Bootnote

The ICO redacted the name of the cop shop at the heart of the matter in its ruling against the Kent plod [PDF, point 4 on page 2], although the watchdog wasn't able to immediately explain why. We hazard a guess that the ex-cop shop is in Gravesend, seeing as it was the only station closed by the force in 2009 in the county, according to a Freedom of Information reply [PDF, table on page 2]. Apparently, that building was turned into a restaurant.

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