Myth Number Seven

“The Data Protection Act prevents the releases of offenders’ details to victims”.

The case of a car owner trying to find out who damaged his car gained some coverage in the national and local press, including a letter written by Ann Widdecombe for The Daily Express in August 2005. It was reported that the car, which was un-insured as it was off the road and out of use, was vandalised on the owner’s driveway by a youth. Police apprehended the culprit but refused to release the youth’s details to the owner who wanted to bring civil proceedings against him to repair the damage to his car. The police cited the Data Protection Act as the reason.

The claim that the Data Protection Act 1998 stops the police disclosing details of cautioned offenders to the victims of their crime is incorrect. The Data Protection Act is not a barrier to disclosing relevant details where civil proceedings by the victim are contemplated. Although the police always need to be careful about the information they do disclose, they have received clear guidance from the Home Office on what details can be passed on to victims. The ICO discussed the matter with the police force, and they later released the information to the owner.

In the view of the Data Protection Society, it could be dangerous to release the name and address of the perpetrator to the victim as he (the victim) may commit an offence against the perpetrator or his property in revenge. A better solution would be to release the personal data of the perpetrator to an intermediary such as a solicitor or insurance company. If the victim was contemplating legal action, he would probably require the services of a solicitor or an insurance company anyway.