A two year conditional discharge for at least 19 counts of selling data on celebrities, from the Police National Computer is far too lenient a punishment for the seriousness of this crime.
Why were the newspapers not fined or their directors charged with criminal offences ?
"Police data sold to newspapers
Claire Cozens and Chris Tryhorn
Saturday April 16, 2005
Two national newspapers paid to receive confidential information from the police national computer, a court heard yesterday.
Articles from the Sunday Mirror and the Mail on Sunday were used in evidence against two former police employees and two private investigators charged with offences involving the sale of police information to the press.
The court was told that Stephen Whittamore, a 56-year-old private investigator with links to the national press, provided "very personal and confidential details" about a series of high-profile figures, including the EastEnders actors Charlie Brooks and Jessie Wallace; Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union; and Clifton Tomlinson, son of the actor Ricky Tomlinson
Riel Karmy-Jones, prosecuting, told Blackfriars crown court in central London that Mr Whittamore had received the information "through a chain" made up of the three other defendants: the private investigator John Boyall, 52; Alan King, a 59-year-old retired police officer; and Paul Marshall, 39, a former civilian communications officer who was based at Tooting police station in London.
Mr Marshall and Mr King both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office, while Mr Whittamore and Mr Boyall pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of breaching the Data Protection Act. All four were given a two-year conditional discharge."
This case follows on from the breach of the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency computer systems by animal extremist supporter Barry Saul Dickinson who only got 5 months in jail for the offence of "misconduct in a public office" and the Metropolitan Police spy Ghazi Kassim who only got two and a half years for "three charges of misconduct in a public office"
None of the punishments in these cases is enough for a "normal" data protection breach, let alone one involving a breach of security of the Police National Computer.
However, this case involving the National Newspapers seems to have dealt with far too leniently.
These cases send out the wrong signal to bureaucrats who have legitimate access to our most sensitive personal data, which is allegedly "Protectively Marked" and falls under the Official Secrets Act 1989
How can we trust any of the Government's planned massive centralised computer databases and the "gateways" between Government departments and Foreign Governments, when multiple breaches of systems as sensitive as the Police National Computer, by insiders, is only punished with a "conditional discharge" ?