Tougher penalties for personal data misuse

Tuesday, 03 November, 2009

The government has launched a
public consultation on whether
to introduce prison sentences
for those found guilty of offences
related to obtaining, disclosing,
or selling personal data.

The consultation paper, the knowing
or reckless misuse of personal data:
introducing custodial sentences, proposes
increasing the current maximum
penalty from a fine to up to two
years' imprisonment.

The proposed new measure could
see those convicted imprisoned for
up to two years if the case is heard in
the Crown Court, and up to 12
months if heard in the magistrates'
court.The courts will also be able to
impose community sentences and
fines if appropriate.

Justice Minister Michael Wills, said:
"The knowing and reckless misuse of
personal data is a serious criminal offence.

We have been monitoring this
illegal trade closely with the help of
the Information Commissioner and
as there is a great deal of concern
about the protection of personal data
we think the time has now come to
consider a more robust penalty.
We are consulting on whether to enable
the courts to impose a custodial
sentence.A prison term would act as
a strong deterrent, ensuring that
those who commit this serious criminal
offence and seek to profit from
the illegal trade in personal data are
punished appropriately."

The government is clear that it does
not wish to restrict legitimate data
processing in the public interest.
Legitimate and responsible journalism
has an important place within a
democratic society and the government
firmly supports the freedom of
the press.The consultation will therefore
also look at whether an additional
defence should be introduced for
those acting for the purposes of journalism, art or literature with a view to publishing such material in the reasonable belief that the obtaining, disclosing or selling of the information is in the public interest

Return to news menu