Manchester firm JMW Solicitors says it has secured the biggest privacy payment of its kind after a police force revealed details of a domestic abuse victim.
The £75,000 settlement, struck between the woman and Greater Manchester Police (GMP), is believed to be one of the biggest ever awards payments by a police force in Britain.
The woman had agreed in 2014 that details of her treatment at the hands of a former partner be used in a training session for officers and support agencies – on the understanding the material was anonymised.
But she later discovered that her identity and medical history were disclosed in full and to a wider audience, while those in attendance were also played a recording of a 999 call which she had made after one assault.
Nick McAleenan (pictured), data privacy lawyer at JMW who represented the woman, said: ‘My client has suffered psychiatric harm due to having very sensitive and personal material made public.
'She had thought that permitting the force to use details of her case – even anonymised – might help police and other agencies improve the way in which they deal with those who suffer domestic violence.’
McAleenan said the woman’s distress was increased by GMP’s efforts to delay the case and deny damages payments.
When she discovered that officers had fully identified her, she issued a claim for the misuse of private information, the breach of confidential information and non-compliance with the Data Protection Act of 1998.
The force asked that the civil action be postponed to allow an internal investigation which, five months later, concluded no officer had infringed the police code of conduct.
In May last year, GMP admitted breaching the woman’s privacy but then refused to admit that she had suffered distress or loss as a result and, therefore, should not be entitled to any damages.
The woman agreed an out of court settlement days before a court hearing was due to take place, just over two years since she launched her claim.
In a statement, GMP said: 'We have apologised to the woman involved and assured her that steps have been taken to ensure that this could not happen in the future. It was quite right that we adequately compensated the woman concerned for the mistakes that were made and the effect they had on her.
'The force has taken action to protect the individual's information to prevent any issue in the future.
'We have undertaken extensive work in recent years to encourage victims of domestic abuse to come forward and want to reassure them and other victims that this was an exceptional case.
'This was an unacceptable mistake, however it was done with the best of intentions as part of training for partner agencies around recognising the signs of domestic abuse.'