Legal Updates

Data Protection – Government Intends to Impose Tougher Penalties for Misuse of Personal Data

The Department for Constitutional Affairs (National) issued a press release on 7 February 2007, stating that the courts will now be able to imprison anyone who trades in or deliberately mis-uses individual’s personal data.

This decision follows a public consultation which looked at whether or not the existing penalties for deliberately and willfully mis-using personal data were suitable.

As a result of a consultation, the Government’s new stance is that current penalties (a fine) under section 55 (4-8) of the Data Protection Act 1998 (“the DPA”), are not acting as a strong enough deterrent.

Under section 55, it is an offence to sell (or offer to sell) personal data which has been (or is subsequently) obtained/procured knowingly or recklessly without the consent of the data controller. The data controller has overall responsibility for an individual’s data.

Section 60 of the DPA states that:

“… On summary conviction, a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum; and

On conviction on indictment, a fine (unlimited). “

The plan is to amend section 60 of the DPA to give the courts the authority to impose higher fines and even imprisonment in certain cases. This shift in severity is hoped to further deter trade in personal data.

The proposed amendment for Section 60 of the DPA is as follows:

“- On summary conviction, up to six months imprisonment (increased to twelve months imprisonment in England and Wales when s154 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 comes into force); and

- On conviction on indictment, up to two years imprisonment.”

For more information visit or  Information Commissioner’s Office.

Please contact us for information on how to treat personal data of individuals at or Visit

© RT COOPERS, 2007. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.




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