Monday, 1 December 2014

Data protection ambulance chasing

Surfing through the web today, I came across a charming web page  – from a firm of solicitors, with offices in Altrincham, Manchester, Leigh, London, Wigan, St Helens and Bolton who are evidently keen to drum up a bit more business. This is what their web page said:

Breach of data protection - compensation claims
The Data Protection Act 1998 imposes certain obligations on public bodies when it comes to how they handle your personal data. The obligations require those public bodies to maintain up to date and accurate records, ensure that personal data is stored securely and not disclose personal data to third parties without a lawful reason.  

If the police or any public body/authority have failed in their obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 and you have incurred damage as a direct result of their failure to comply with their obligations under the Act, then you may be able to claim compensation. 

For advice on data protection claims against the police or any other public body/authority contact our specialist team on [redacted].

Data protection claims against Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS)
If the court service has failed to maintain up-to-date records and this has led to you being detained when you should not have been or detained for longer than you should have been, then a compensation claim may be possible.  

Data protection claims against the local authority
If the local authority has disclosed your personal data to third parties without your permission or other lawful excuse and you have suffered damage as a result, then a compensation claim may be possible.

Alternatively, if a failure to maintain accurate and up to date records by the local authority has led you to incur damage, then you may be entitled to claim compensation.  

With budgets for public services becoming ever more squeezed, I wonder how ethical it is for solicitors to drum up business that will require these public bodies to spend more time (and resources) away from front line services, addressing failures that (probably) arose because the organisation didn’t have the resources to get things right in the first place.

It’s a vicious downward spiral.

Then again, this may be the only way to ensure that “fundamental rights” can be safeguarded – by shaming public authorities into spending a larger percentage of their budget on statutory obligations, rather than on public libraries and the arts.

It might not be too long before further cuts in public budgets require these “fundamental rights” to be recalibrated.

Ironically, this firm is on a panel that delivers legal services to over 10 local authorities. Lets hope there aren’t too many occasions when it finds itself being asked to act for both the claimant and the defending local authority.

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