Police rapped for abusing confidential info access

PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 July 2011

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ONE member of police staff from Avon and Somerset Constabulary was sacked for abusing their access to confidential databases, a report has revealed.

A further 25 officers and seven civilians were subjected to internal disciplinary procedures for breaching the Data Protection Act.

The research comes from two Freedom of Information requests made by campaign group Big Brother Watch.

The figures cover a three-year period from May 2008 until May this year.

It is not known how many of the 33 breaches were committed within the North Somerset area.

Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Our investigation shows that not only have police employees been found to have run background checks on friends and possible partners, but some have also been proven of passing sensitive information to criminal gangs and drug dealers.

“This is at best hugely intrusive and, at worst, downright dangerous.

“Police forces must adopt a zero tolerance approach to this kind of behaviour – those found guilty of abusing their position should be sacked on the spot.”

Avon and Somerset Constabulary responded to the figures, maintaining it took its responsibilities under the Data Protection Act ‘very seriously’.

A spokesman said: “Officers are told about appropriate use of police information during their training and are given regular reminders.

“Anyone with access to our systems are aware of the strict rules governing their use and the penalties they face if they abuse this.

“Anyone suspected of misusing information faces a thorough investigation and if found guilty will receive an appropriate sanction which includes prosecution, termination of employment or internal disciplinary measures.”

Compared to other police forces in the country, Avon and Somerset Constabulary had a low number of Data Protection Act breaches.

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