The Crown Prosecution Service has been fined £325,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office for losing unencrypted DVDs containing interviews with 15 victims of child sex abuse to be used at a trial. The sanction comes just over two years after being fined £200,000 for losing sensitive material.
The ICO said today the DVDs were sent by tracked delivery in November 2016 from the CPS's Guildford Office to its office in Brighton, which is in a shared building. The DVDs, which were not in tamper-proof packaging, were delivered at 6.49am and left in reception.
The CPS did not realise the DVDs were missing until the following month, when the employee who requested them returned from annual leave. The CPS area business manager was not formally notified until February 2017. The ICO was informed two months later.
The DVDs have not been found but they have not been accessed by an unauthorised third party as far as the commissioner is aware.
According to the ICO's monetary penalty notice, the CPS stated that it is not normal practice to encrypt 'achieving best evidence' material. However, the commissioner notes that encryption software is available to all CPS areas.
In 2015 the CPS was fined £200,000 for failing to encrypt and secure recorded police interviews with victims and witnesses in relation to 31 investigations, nearly all of which were ongoing and of a violent or sexual nature. Following that fine, the CPS said it had strengthened arrangements to safely and securely handle sensitive material.
Today, a spokesperson said: 'CPS South East have completely reviewed their systems and processes for the receipt and handling of video interviews to ensure that this situation cannot arise again. The original version of the data was retained by the police and the defendant pleaded guilty in court.'
The spokesperson said a new digital system will allow material to be transferred securely online between the CPS and police, eliminating the need to send discs in the post.
The CPS is expected to pay the fine before 13 June to receive a 20% 'early payment' discount.