The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has called for judges to be given the power to send those convicted of unlawful use of information to prison.
The data protection watchdog made call after the wife of a convicted sex offender admitting using her position as a bank teller at Barclays to access the personal bank account of her husband’s victim.
"It beggars belief that – in an age where our personal information is being stored and accessed by more organisations than ever – the penalties for seriously abusing the system still do not include the possibility of a prison sentence, even in the most serious cases," said Information Commissioner Christopher Graham.
Mrs Sarah Langridge, who no longer works at the bank, was fined £800 out of a £5000 maximum penalty. At Brighton Magistrates Court yesterday, she pleaded guilty to using her position to access the victim’s personal details. In court, she claimed that she accessed the records to try to build a picture of the woman who had accused her husband.
"Christopher Graham will use his appearance before the Justice Committee today to call for custodial sentences to be made available to the courts as a more effective deterrent to the unlawful trade in, and access to, personal information," the ICO said in a statement.
A Barclay’s spokesperson told Information Age that the data breach was an instance of a member of staff choosing to "ignore training [Barclays] provide."
"As soon as this matter was brought to our attention, we took swift action and confirm that the individual is no longer employed by Barclays," the company said in a statement. "All staff receive annual training on the importance and regulatory requirements of the Data Protection Act and the consequences of any breach"
A Which? report earlier this year found that Barclays received more valid data protection complaints from the public than any other bank, with 116 breaches between August 2009 and August 2010, although it is also one of the largest by customer volume.