Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Interception of Communications Commissioner shows us his independence

In a visit that astonished and inspired many members of the Data Protection Forum last Tuesday, Sir Paul Kennedy, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, spoke about his role and, in discussing a few topical issues of the day, showed just how independent a person he actually is. Most of the members of the Forum had never met a retired Lord Justice of Appeal before – well they have now, and they can now better appreciate the care, discretion, dedication, humility and integrity that Sir Paul brings to the job.

The full text of his speech will shortly be loaded onto his website – which is the impressively named www.intelligence What a great title for a website. But I expect he won’t be sorry that he will have to relinquish it when his term of office ends.

The day had started with a minor calamity for the first speaker, the award-winning lawyer, barrister, blogger and tweeter Stewart Room. All the IT in the well equipped conference room could not open the PowerPoint presentation he had carefully prepared – so he played a blinder. In a masterly display of oratorical powers, he spoke without hesitation, repetition or deviation for 45 minutes on the interface between security and data protection. He quickly got everyone up to speed on the relevant issues, so they could better appreciate the world that Sir Paul regulated.

The final speaker of the day was Martin Smith of The Security Company. And yes, he blogs too. It’s obviously the new way of communicating to the masses. Whereas in the past, people would have polished off a pamphlet, got it printed and then sent around the coffee houses of London, these days we press a few buttons and, hurrah, our jottings have been published for the whole world to consume. Anyway, if you have not heard Martin Smith speak, then you are in for a treat. He certainly sympathised with the lot of the Data Protection Officer. It may not be sexy, and it may not be the job that attracts the greatest attention from the Board, but it’s certainly one of the really worthy ones. He had us eating out of his hands in minutes.

And what was also inspirational about the day was Sir Paul’s nomination of the beneficiary of another innovation the Forum tried last Tuesday – to hold a charitable raffle just before the Christmas lunch. He nominated the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust. The Trust was set up in 1998 in memory of a 28 year old professional who had committed suicide whilst suffering from depression. His family and friends formed the Trust to raise awareness of depression, reduce the stigma attached to seeking help and to ensure help was available when needed.

Charlie’s death had an impact which continues to affect those who knew him. Yet, Charlie’s case is not an isolated one. Each year around 1,760 young men commit suicide and a recent report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists highlighted the impact of stress and work pressures.

Stress and work pressures are both issues I have struggled with, as have people with whom I am and have been very close too. I’m so pleased to learn about this charity. And I’m honoured to recommend it to others who want their charitable donations to really make a difference.

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