The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is warning employees that walking off with the personal information of their employer when changing jobs is a criminal offence (here).
A paralegal, who previously worked at Jordans, was prosecuted for illegally taking information relating to over 100 people including workload lists, file notes and template documents which still contained sensitive personal data, to his use in his new job.
He had sent the information to himself in six emails prior to leaving Jordans.
Unlawfully obtaining or accessing personal data is a criminal offence under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. The offence is punishable by way of ‘fine only’ - up to £5,000 in a Magistrates Court or an unlimited fine in a Crown Court.
Criminal proceedings aside, theft of client information can entitle an employer to seek both an injunction prohibiting the use of the information and damages.
Where an employee is subject to professional regulation (for example a solicitor or someone working within financial services), a criminal conviction can be fatal in terms of their ability to pursue a future career.
This is intended for general information only and should not be considered as giving advice in relation to any individual case nor be taken as applying to any particular case. No liability is accepted for any such use of the information.