Barnet Borough Council has been fined £70,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office after highly sensitive papers about child sex abuse cases were stolen at home from a social worker, who stored them next to an encrypted laptop. The UK’s data protection regulator decided that, given the sensitive nature of the data involved, this constituted a serious enough breach of the Data Protection Act to warrant the fine. The ICO had taken into account previous promises from the Council to improve its data protection practices. The employee should have been trained to keep the physical papers separate from the laptop.
Paul Gershlick, a Partner at Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP, comments: “This is a very harsh decision. One employee with a print-out of papers suffering a burglary rather than being generally careless has led to a fine of tens of thousands of pounds. The fact that the laptop was encrypted shows that measures were being taken to protect the security of data. No doubt the decision will result in a rise in Council Tax bills of Barnet residents to pay for this fine. Is that a reasonable outcome in this case?”