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Despite looking up private police records without authorisation, a Detective Sergeant has recently evaded dismissal following a misconduct hearing. In the Northamptonshire detective data breach case, the Detective Sergeant reportedly looked up the details of a woman with whom he was engaging in an extra-marital relationship with at the time, who was involved in a case he was working on.
His actions reportedly amounted to misconduct, so the Northamptonshire Police appear to be sending mixed messages by not taking the matter any further. The police can, and often do, dismiss officers for similar offences, but this officer’s acceptance of the accusations against him, and his standing in the force, seem to have allowed him to avoid further consequences.
Police data breaches like this should be treated with the severity that they merit, taking account of the potential damage such actions can cause. Police services cannot afford to let employees off lightly for breaching data access regulations, as doing so could risk compromising the force’s reputation and its overall data security and integrity.
As a more senior member of the Northamptonshire Police, you would expect that the Detective Sergeant in this case would fully comply with established standards of professional behaviour. However, on one particular occasion, he reportedly decided to make use of his access to police information to find the details of a woman with whom he was engaged in an affair with. The woman in question is understood to be an independent witness in an organised crime case which the Detective Sergeant was investigating.
The Northamptonshire detective data breach was therefore related to another inappropriate action. Not only did the sergeant access a record without authorisation, he was also engaging in a relationship which could have affected the success of a police investigation.
At a two-day disciplinary hearing for the Northamptonshire detective data breach incident, it was reported that the Detective Sergeant’s relationship could have compromised the position of the witness and the criminal proceedings which may have followed. This is incredibly serious. He is understood to have acknowledged that his decision to look up the record constituted professional misconduct.
Despite his actions, the DS only received a written warning as a result. It seems that his misconduct was seen as an exceptional circumstance within a dutiful career, as he reportedly received “sparkling references” from his superiors, and it was suggested that his dismissal would be “calamitous”.
While the restrained action taken against the Detective Sergeant may be appropriate in this case, the judgement could be seen as lacking an awareness of the severity of police data breaches. In the worst cases, accessing police records without authorisation can compromise the safety of crime victims and risk the success of investigations, so it is essential that officers are disciplined effectively when they breach standards.
This Northamptonshire detective data breach incident is not just an example of professional misconduct, it also shows how victims can be affected when police officers access information against regulations. It could have jeopardised a serious crime case, and incidents like this can constitute a breach of data protection law.
As leading specialist GDPR solicitors, UK firm Your Lawyers (t/a The Data Leak Lawyers) can offer expert advice in your time of need. For a free, no-obligation discussion of your case, contact our team today or register your details for a call-back.
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