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Tough new sanctions proposed for breaches of data protection law`




Tough new sanctions
proposed for breaches of data protection law

The Ministry
of Justice is running two consultation exercises in tandem concerning proposals
to amend the Data Protection Act. The first proposal is to introduce custodial
sentences of up to two years for data protection offences; the second proposal
is to introduce new civil penalties, with an upper limit fine of £0.5m, for
serious breaches of the data protection principles.

Under the Data Protection Act (DPA) it is a criminal offence to obtain,
disclose or procure the disclosure to another person of personal data, where
that is done knowingly or recklessly and without the consent of the data
controller. At present, conviction for this offence can lead to a fine of up to
£5,000 in the Magistrates’ Court, or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court.

In its first consultation
on tougher data protection sanctions, the Ministry of Justice is proposing to
increase the maximum penalties available in England and Wales, to imprisonment
for up to two years when tried in the Crown Court, or up to 12 months in the
Magistrates’ Court. These custodial penalties would be available in addition to
the existing powers to levy fines.

In the second
the Ministry proposes that the DPA be amended to provide the Information
Commissioner with a power to impose a civil monetary penalty of up to £500,000
on data controllers if he or she is satisfied that there has been a serious
contravention of the requirement to comply with the data protection principles
by the data controller and: (i) the contravention was deliberate and likely to
cause substantial damage or substantial distress; or (ii) the data controller
knew or ought to have known that there was a risk that the contravention would
occur and reasonable preventative steps were not taken.





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