Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Law & Order : Lothian & Borders Policewoman guilty over misuse of data access

A Lothian & Borders Policewoman has been found guilty of illegally accessing data on Police computers, and may face a £5,000 fine.

The Edinburgh News reports :

Policewoman facing £5,000 fine over illegal data checks

Published Date: 06 May 2009

A POLICEWOMAN is facing a fine of up to £5,000 after she illegally accessed people's data using a police computer.

Anna Wong, 26, was suspended by Lothian and Borders Police after they caught her using intelligence databases to look-up people she knew.

Wong – originally from Hong Kong – used the Scottish Intelligence Database and the Lothian and Borders Operational Support System to obtain personal details of a number of Chinese people living in Scotland.

The officer was suspended after it emerged she was accessing the details at the capital's St Leonard's Police Station between March 2006 and June 2007.

Wong was charged with 54 breeches of the Data Protection Act and later admitted 28 of the charges at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

She insists she did not pass the information on to anyone else but could face a maximum £5,000 fine.

Fiscal depute Beverley Adam said Wong had been at level nine on the scale of access privileges within the force – the lowest rating with access to the information – when she used the databases.

Her solicitor, David O'Hagan, said Wong had begun tapping into the database to look-up outstanding cases against two people she knew.

However, Mr O'Hagan said, because of the difficulties in recording Chinese names on the computers, Wong simply entered "Chinese" as a search term and began accessing others in the Chinese community to investigate possible links.

Mr O'Hagan said: "They are all confined to one date. (It involved) Two individuals who she knew and had some concerns for.

"She started off looking for the details of these people but there is a regular problem with the database with regard to Chinese names.

"She then entered 'Chinese' into the database and it generated a number of names. She looked at a variety of them but she did not pass on any information to anybody."

But, Mr O'Hagan admitted, Wong's access had not been "specifically for the detection of crime" – the only reason officers are allowed to use the databases.

Mr O'Hagan added: "There is guidance as to what should and should not be done."

Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie QC deferred sentence on Wong, who lives in Edinburgh, until next month for background reports.

She said: "I want to get background information as to what level of access you were entitled to."

Wong was granted bail until June.

Lothian and Borders Police say they will now conduct a misconduct investigation into Wong's behaviour. A police spokesman said: "Lothian and Borders Police can confirm that an officer has been suspended and has appeared in court charged with breaching the Data Protection Act.

"Following the conviction, consideration will now be given to carrying out a misconduct investigation under the Police (Conduct)(Scotland) Act 1996."

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