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    Friday, 22 July 2011

    'Allo, allo, allo...': the extent of the police trade in confidential information

    It has been reported that the police investigation into phone hacking has been extended to cover the information gleaned by the Information Commissioner's Office in the course of Operation Motorman as well as allegations that police were regularly passing communications data from mobile phones to journalists for payment. In that context, FOI research published this month by the lobby group Big Brother Watch makes illuminating reading.

    The group sought information on the number of police staff who have been disciplined on account of sharing - often trading - in confidential information. A recent reported instance involving a journalist was that of Emma Smiter who was convicted of misconduct in a public office. The Guardian's Media Monkey may also have rehearsed another. The headline results of the research are startling. Between 2007 and 2010

    • 243 Police officers and staff received criminal convictions for breaching the Data Protection Act (DPA)
    • 98 Police officers and staff had their employment terminated for breaching the DPA
    • 904 Police officers and staff were subjected to internal disciplinary procedures for breaching the DPA.

    Either the police are assiduous in uncovering wrongdoers (which, given the trails left when searches are conducted, would not be difficult as soon as one goes looking), or the figures produced by BBW are the tip of an iceberg. Either way, this is one more avenue for the Leveson inquiry to perambulate.

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