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Departmental Data Protection

Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many members of staff have been (a) investigated, (b) suspended and (c) dismissed for losing (i) memory sticks, (ii) laptop computers, (iii) desktop computers and (iv) mobile telephones in each year since 1997. (247960)

The Ministry has taken decisive action to improve data handling including minimising the amount of data put on removable media, encryption programmes for data and mobile devices that carry personal protected data and the introduction of training and education programmes to improve staff awareness of information risks.

Government take data security very seriously, which is why a report into data handling procedures across Government was commissioned and new measures to improve and strengthen controls in the protection of personal data were introduced.

Under paragraph 2.8 of the Data Handling Report published in June 2008, all Departments are required to amend HR processes where necessary to make clear that failing to apply controls in handling personal data could amount to gross misconduct, and this has been reflected in the Ministry’s revised Discipline Policy issued in July 2008.

In the Ministry of Justice, excluding the National Offender Management Service, details of the number of staff investigated for losing memory sticks, laptops, desktop computers and mobile telephones are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Information on suspensions is not held to include the level of detail requested by this question. Central records only exist from 2003 and indicate that no members of staff have been dismissed for losing IT equipment. The central records from 2003 to 2005 do not include details of dismissals from the Magistrates Courts Committees, and these records are not held centrally.

In the Ministry of Justice National Offender Management Service, details of the numbers of staff investigated or suspended for losing memory sticks, laptops, desktop computers and mobile telephones are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Information regarding the outcome of disciplinary proceedings shows that no members of staff have been dismissed since January 2005 for the aforementioned offences. However, formal disciplinary action was taken against one member of staff during 2005 following the loss of a laptop.