By Max Clarke
A bank cashier used her position to illegally access the information of a sex attack victim, prompting the Information Commissioner’s Office to urge government to extend custodial sentences to the most serious data offenders.
The call for action comes as a bank cashier yesterday pleaded guilty to using her position to access illegally the personal details of a sex attack victim. The cashier’s husband had been convicted of carrying out the attack and was serving time in jail. Sarah Langridge - a former employee of Barclays Bank — claimed she accessed the victim’s accounts and banking records to try to build a picture of the woman who had accused her husband. Mrs Langridge was fined £800, made to pay £400 costs and a £15 victims’ surcharge in a hearing at Brighton Magistrates Court.
“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 the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham.
“Access to online records is now part and parcel of almost every transaction the citizen makes — with government agencies, local government, the NHS, DVLA, high street banks, insurers, social networks. This only makes the risks to privacy greater and the need for security greater still.”
“The details of this case are truly shocking. The victim had a harrowing enough experience at the hands of her attacker; the revelation that her attacker’s wife was then rooting through all her personal details, for whatever purpose, would have caused even further distress.
Mr Graham is to appear before the Justice Committee later today, and will urge them to consider extending jail terms to serious breeches like that of Mrs. Landridge.
Section 55 of the Data Protection Act makes it an offence to “knowingly or recklessly, without the consent of the data controller, obtain or disclose personal data.” The current penalty for committing the offence is a maximum £5,000 fine if the case is heard in a Magistrates Court and an unlimited fine in a Crown Court.
In this latest case, Mrs Langridge’s offences were uncovered following a court hearing concerning her husband’s sentence for committing a serious sexual offence. His victim recognised Mrs Langridge in court as working at the local bank branch she used. Concerned that her account had been unlawfully accessed, the victim contacted Barclays bank and the police. The bank’s enquiries found that Mrs Langridge had regularly accessed the victim’s records on eight separate dates over a period of eight months — the period during which her husband’s court case was ongoing.
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