Police Data breach puts lives at risk

Last week, West Midlands Police were in the news.

Back in late May, a police notebook containing details of operations and a list of young people at risk from, or associated with, gangs was stolen from the back of an unmarked police car. Although the Force described the notebook as containing “rough notes”, the details within included names, addresses, mobile numbers and car registrations. At the time, officers from the gang unit had left the car unattended as they went on a foot chase in the Ladywood area of Birmingham.

According to Assistant Chief Constable Danny Long, “an investigation was immediately launched to determine any threat and risk posed” to any individual and a series of visits were made and formal letters sent to those who might be affected. ACC Long continued, “we did not feel it was appropriate to share this information any wider at the time, as that may have made the situation worse, or put people at further risk.”

Although the Force concluded that the blunder did not directly put anyone at risk, community leaders claim that since the loss of the confidential intelligence, families have been threatened and shootings in the area have increased.

I am presently acting for a family put at risk by a similar “loss” of confidential information by another police Force.

Back in the summer of 2019, police officers attended a residential premises to execute a search warrant of an individual suspected to be in the local Organised Crime Group and involved in the supply of class A drugs. During the course of the search, one officer left behind a key document, a “subject profile” which included sensitive police intelligence about that individual. That intelligence included information provided to the police by my client, Andrew.

Several days later, a member of the Organised Crime Group contacted the Force to confirm that they were in possession of the missing subject profile.

As with West Midlands police, the Force was obliged to report itself to the Information Commissioners Office.

In addition, the Force reviewed a copy of the subject profile to identify any individual put at risk because of the loss.

On review, it was determined that my client faced a high likelihood of “detrimental impact” i.e. that “he might suffer distress or become the victim of a crime”. In the circumstances, my client was contacted and informed.

Although the Force took some measures to help re-locate my client and install additional security measures to his family home, my client and his family believe that the preventative measures taken were wholly inadequate. As a result, my client has had to relocate to another part of the country and his family who remain in the area remain on high alert and feel in danger on a daily basis.

Both this case and the West Midlands case highlights how crucial it is that that data is kept safe and secure and that there is no excuse for these types of “schoolboy errors” which undermine confidence in the police and might very possibly put lives at risk.


Author: iaingould

Actions against the police solicitor (lawyer) and blogger.