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Data Protection

Volume 502: debated on Wednesday 16 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will bring forward legislation to make custodial sentences mandatory for serious offences of breach of privacy and confidentiality through negligent loss, sale or abuse of personal data. (306539)

There are no plans to do so. The Government do not believe that mandatory custodial sentences are appropriate other than in exceptional circumstances: it is the function of the Court to decide the sentence in each individual case, subject to the maximum that Parliament has provided and any guidelines that may be laid down by the Sentencing Guidelines Council or the Court of Appeal.

However, the Government are consulting on the introduction of custodial sentences as a potential sanction for individuals who commit offences relating to the knowing or reckless misuse of personal data under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). The consultation also seeks views on introducing a defence for those who can show that they acted for journalistic, artistic or literary purposes with a view to publishing journalistic, literary or artistic material, in the reasonable belief that they acted in the public interest. The consultation closes on 7 January 2010 and can be viewed at:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/misuse-personal-data.htm

The Government have also recently launched a consultation on setting the maximum level for a Civil Monetary Penalty that the Information Commissioner could serve on data controllers who commit serious contraventions of the data protection principles, as set out in the DPA. The consultation closes on 21 December 2009 and can be viewed at:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/civil-monetary-penalties-consultation.htm