rights group Big Brother Watch claims to have uncovered the true extent to which police abuse their access to confidential databases. Its own report is fairly topical, given that former Downing Street Head of Communications Andy Coulson and one time News of the World Editor paid the police in order to receive privileged information.
According to Big Brother Watch figures between 2007 and 2010 243 Police officers and staff received criminal convictions for breaching the Data Protection Act (DPA). Around 98 Police officers and staff had their employment terminated for breaching the DPA and 904 cops were subjected to internal disciplinary procedures for breaching the DPA. It has arranged a full breakdown of results by local police authority at its site here
Daniel Hamilton, Director of Big Brother Watch said allegations surrounding Andy Coulson are just the tip of the iceberg. He said it was astonishing to think that 904 Police officers and support staff across England have faced disciplinary action for abusing their access to confidential systems.
The investigation shows that cops run background records checks on friends and possible partners, but sometimes have passed sensitive information to criminal gangs and drug dealers. He said that this was hugely intrusive and, at worse, downright dangerous. He said that UK coppers needed to adopt a zero tolerance approach to this kind of behaviour. Those found guilty of abusing their position should be sacked on the spot.”
One of the worst areas was Merseyside, where 208 officers and police staff received criminal convictions for breaching the DPA since 2007. West Midlands was a long way behind as the runner up with 83 convictions. Kent had the highest number of sackings for DPA breaches since 2007 followed by Merseyside, and West Midlands.