Monday, 5 December 2011

Woops- jail time for non-registration?

Dan Worth, that excellent IT journalist from must have been kicking some poor copywriter last Friday. What a misleading headline: ”Estate agent avoids jail time after breaching Data Protection Act” to accompany Dan’s article!

Dan was right to report that the miscreant was “given a six-months conditional discharge and ordered to pay £614 towards prosecution costs in a hearing at Caernarfon Magistrates' Court” for a Section 17 offence (ie failing to register with the ICO). But, failure to register is not a custodial matter. Surely, a custodial offence could only have been considered appropriate if the estate agent had beaten up the ICO’s inspectors with some old For Sale boards.

A conditional discharge simply means that the miscreant does not receive a punishment if they comply with certain rules (eg stay out of trouble) for a fixed period of time. So the penalty for non registration is, actually, nothing, other than to pay the prosecution costs if you get caught. Some penalty that is.

These bloopers, and others (remember, the European Commission has just threatened to place 16 Member States on the naughty step for failing to fully implement a Telecommunications Data Protection Directive that was due to take force from 25 May) are bound to be discussed when the great and the good of the Open Rights Group gather for their Christmas drinks in Paddington tonight. So, if you’re passing by the Wood Marylebone pub in Balcome Street later, and hear a strange “12 days of Christmas” refrain, do pop in and join the songsters. You never know who you might meet there.

The Member States vying for a spot on the naughty step are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain. Not the UK, this time.