Humberside Police has been fined £130,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after a video interview of an alleged rape victim went missing.
The force, which is responsible for policing in North and North Lincolnshire, carried out interviews on behalf of Cleveland Police in connection with the alleged rape.
Three unencrypted disks and accompanying paperwork identifying the victim and accused were left in an envelope on an officer’s desk.
The bundle contained names, dates of birth, signature and details of the alleged rape itself, the victims mental health and the suspects address.
Cleveland Police were expected to receive the information in the post but it is not known if the package was ever sent.
The information was never recovered and is still classified as missing.
An ICO investigation found:
- Humberside Police failed to encrypt the disks before sending (or intending to send) by unsecure mail;
- The force failed to maintain a detailed audit trail of the package;
- The Protecting Vulnerable People Unit within Humberside Police failed to adhere to its ‘Information Security Policy’ in relation to removable media.
The victim was notified of the loss and the ICO noted the impact of substantial distress related to the incident and to the prospect that the loss could jeopardise any future prosecution.
Steve Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement, said: “We see far too many cases where police forces fail to look after disks containing the highly sensitive personal information contained within victim or witness interviews.
“Anyone working in a police force has a duty to stop and think whenever they handle personal details – making sure they are using the most appropriate method for transferring information and considering the consequences of it being lost before going ahead. Staff training in this area is vital.
“Police forces deal with such sensitive information that when things go wrong, it’s likely to be serious. This case shows how crucial it is to keep a clear record of what’s been sent, when and who to.”
Humberside Police, headquartered in Hull, has also been asked by the ICO to sign a commitment to take steps to improve its data protection practices.