Police disciplined for ‘snooping’ in confidential files

Robust stance: Deputy Chief Constable Bob Dyson.
Robust stance: Deputy Chief Constable Bob Dyson.

A TOTAL of 44 South Yorkshire Police officers and workers have been disciplined for breaching their access rights to confidential databases, writes crime reporter Claire Lewis.

A TOTAL One employee, an office worker, was sacked, out of the 44 officers and civilian workers caught snooping in police records unrelated to their investigations or day-to-day work.

Another civilian was prosecuted for breaching the Data Protection Act and 26 police officers and 16 other members of staff were subjected to internal disciplinary procedures.

They were caught out between 2007 and 2010, according to the civil liberties and privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch.

South Yorkshire Deputy Chief Constable Bob Dyson said: “South Yorkshire Police continue to take a robust stance where members of the organisation breach the confidentiality of the information they are trusted to deal with on behalf of the public.”

Nationally, 243 police employees received criminal convictions for breaching the Data Protection Act, 98 were sacked and another 904 were disciplined by their individual forces.

In Merseyside 208 employees were cautioned for viewing a computer record relating to a high-profile arrest.

Others across the country were caught looking at police records to find addresses of people or to snoop on their neighbours.

Some disclosed confidential police information on the Facebook social networking site.

Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “It’s astonishing to think that 904 police officers and support staff across England have faced disciplinary action for abusing their access to confidential systems and 243 have received criminal convictions for their actions, while 98 have lost their jobs.

“Our investigation shows that not only have police employees been found to have run background records checks on friends and possible partners, but some have been convicted for passing sensitive information to criminal gangs and drug dealers.

“This is at best hugely intrusive and, at worse, 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.”

Big Brother Watch is a campaign from the founders of the TaxPayers’ Alliance and was set up to protect civil liberties and fight against intrusions on privacy.