Lawyers risk £500,000 fine for data loss

Lawyers often carry around large quantities of information in folders or files when going to and from court

Lawyers were warned about the need to keep personal data secure by the information watchdog yesterday after 15 breaches in the past three months.

Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, said that material handled by barristers and solicitors was often so sensitive that it could meet the threshold at which a financial penalty of up to £500,000 could be imposed on individual lawyers.
He said: “The number of breaches reported by barristers and solicitors may not seem that high, but given the sensitive information they handle, and the fact that it is often held in paper files rather than secured by any sort of encryption, that number is troubling.”
He added: “It is important that we sound the alarm at an early stage to make sure this problem is addressed before a barrister or solicitor is left counting the financial and reputational damage of a serious data breach.”

A statement from the Information Commissioner’s Office highlighted the risks facing solicitors and barristers when handling personal information. It said that lawyers often
carried around large quantities of information in folders or files when taking them to or from court and might store them at home, which increased the risk of a breach of data protection rules.

Richard Ford
Published at 12:01AM, August 6 2014