Information Commissioner repeats call for imposition of stronger sentences on data thieves

Christopher Graham: the UK's Information Commissioner

Christopher Graham: the UK’s Information Commissioner

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has reiterated his call for stronger sentencing powers to be imposed on those people convicted of stealing personal data. The comments come as an employee of a car rental company was sentenced for stealing customer information that accident claims companies could use to make nuisance calls.

Sindy Nagra, 42, from Hayes, sold almost 28,000 customers’ records for £5,000. Subsequently appearing at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday 8 January, Nagra was fined £1,000, ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge and also part with the sum of £864.40 in prosecution costs.

Nagra was an administrative assistant at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and directly responsible for processing customer details sent to the car rental firm by an insurance company. The details involved – typically of people who had been involved in road traffic collisions – included information on policyholders as well as that pertaining to their particular insurance claim.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car contacted the ICO after its systems identified Nagra was looking at a large number of records, including many that she would not have been expected to process.

An investigation found that Nagra, who worked from home, had been photographing the records while they were on her computer screen. It was discovered she had then sold copies of 28,000 records, in turn receiving £5,000 in cash.

Nagra pleaded guilty to unlawfully obtaining, disclosing and selling personal data. This is deemed a criminal offence under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act. Courts of Law can issue unlimited fines for such an offence, but not custodial sentences.

Paying for stolen data

Christopher Graham said: “Nuisance call ‘cowboys’ and claims market crooks will pay people to steal personal data. The fines that courts are issuing at the moment just don’t do enough to discourage would-be data thieves.”

Speaking about the Nagra case, Graham explained: “This fine highlights the limited options the courts have. Sindy Nagra received £5,000 in cash in return for stealing thousands of people’s information. She lost her job when she was caught, and has no money to pay a fine. The courts have to reflect that, but we’d like to see the courts given more options such as suspended sentences, community service and even prison sentences in the most serious of cases.”

Graham added: “With so much concern about the security of data, it’s more important than ever that the courts have at their disposal more effective deterrent penalties than just fines. People who break the criminal law by trading in other people’s personal information need to know that they will be severely punished and could even go to prison. We’ve been pushing for this for some time now. Parliament voted for it to happen more than seven years ago, but this subject remains on a Westminster backburner. It’s high time that situation changed.”

The records were bought by Iheanyi Ihediwa, 39, from Manchester, who Nagra claimed had been introduced to her after he approached her husband in a pub.

Ihediwa appeared before Manchester Magistrates’ Court on 17 December, where he also pleaded guilty to Section 55 offences. Ihediwa was fined a total of £1,000, ordered to pay prosecution costs of £864.40 and a victim surcharge.

There was also a destruction order made in respect of any data held by the defendant.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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