Serious data breach by Suffolk Constabulary affecting victims of sexual offences
Leading data breach lawyers say that the recent announcement by Suffolk Constabulary that it has inadvertently published details of victims of sexual offences on its website is likely to lead to substantial claims for compensation by those affected.
Posted on 22 November 2022
The data breach, which was discovered by a member of the public on 7th November 2022, appears to have been first published in 2019 and therefore has been publicly available for three years.
The information, contained on an Excel spreadsheet as part of a reply to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, and published on the Suffolk Constabulary website related to “inquiries into sexual offences and offences that occurred in schools which were reported between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2019”.
Suffolk Constabulary, who have apologised for the breach, state that 2%-3% of the published investigations “included information which could lead to someone being identified” and that “they are endeavouring to contact those affected at the earliest opportunity to give support, reassurance and offer an apology.”
The police force has confirmed that it has now removed this information from its website and has reported the breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office. However, it has not provided any information on the number of people it believes to have been affected by the breach or how many of those individuals it has been able to contact. Similarly, Suffolk Constabulary has also not so far been able to say how many people have viewed or downloaded the information.
Sean Humber, a data breach specialist and partner at Leigh Day, who has successfully acted in a series of claims relating to the unauthorised disclosure of confidential information over the last 20 years, including claims against the police, stated:
“As details slowly emerge, it is increasingly clear that this is a very serious data breach. It seems very likely that Suffolk Constabulary’s failure to keep this information confidential is unlawful and those affected are likely to be entitled to compensation for the distress and anxiety caused by the breach as well as any financial losses that they may have suffered. Given, in many cases, the extreme sensitivity of the information, it is likely that this compensation will be substantial.”
Gene Matthews, a partner at Leigh Day, who has successfully acted in a succession of group claims over the last 20 years, added:
“This is likely to be an uncertain and deeply worrying time for those affected. It is important that Suffolk Constabulary now keeps affected individuals fully updated about the breach, including what personal information was published and who has potentially viewed this information.”
If you have been affected by this data breach and wish to discuss, in complete confidence and without any obligation, bringing a claim for compensation on a “no win, no fee” basis then please get in touch by completing our form, or contacting Sean Humber or Gene Matthews on 020-7650-1200.
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Sean is an experienced human rights lawyer and privacy breach compensation claims specialist
Gene specialises in consumer law, product liability and data protection claims mainly brought as group claims/ multi-party actions