The Information Commissioner has presented a dossier to the Government which demonstrates how personal information from private and public organisations is being used to commit serious crimes.

Examples given of how personal information has been misused include:

  • A pensioner who died after the police passed his address to a man who later went to his house and threw a brick through his window, after a parking dispute in a supermarket. The 79-year old from Derby later died from the shock of the attack.
  • A rape victim who was harassed by the rapist after he paid a private investigator to unlawfully obtain her personal details.
  • A serving police constable who obtained information from police databases and then passed this to a relative who was involved in a case of assault against the named individual.

The examples relate mostly to use of personal information by the police but show how careful any public organisation needs to be when considering disclosure. The police also request information regularly from the NHS in order to assist with crime investigation and this reinforces how careful NHS bodies need to be when making disclosure decisions to assist them.

The Information Commissioner has said that the dossier contained serious evidence which he hoped would force ministers to give courts the power to impose two-year prison sentences for the most serious misuse of protected information. We will watch out for the Government’s response!

Guidance on the disclosure of confidential information to the police by NHS trusts can be found on the Mills & Reeve Healthcare Resource Centre (HRC) in the patient matters section. The HRC can be accessed here.