Tribunal overturns ‘unjust’ fine on appeal

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Despite a tribunal ruling in its favour, the council could face a further battle over a £250,000 fine issued by the Information Commissioner.

The decision, announced last week following a two-day hearing in Edinburgh, has been welcomed by the council leader and chief executive.

However, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) could yet launch its own appeal, against the decision for the fine to be refunded.

An ICO spokesperson told The Southern that it was ‘disappointed’ with the result and would await the full report before considering an appeal.

She added: “We do not take the decision to issue a monetary penalty lightly and follow a thorough process before serving an organisation with a penalty notice. The tribunal agreed with us that the breach, which led to over 600 pension records being found in an overfilled paper recycling bank in a supermarket car park, was a serious one, but we were unable to satisfy them that it was likely to lead to substantial damage or substantial distress being caused to the individuals affected.”

After the tribunal ruling, SBC chief executive Tracey Logan said: “I am extremely pleased with the outcome and have always strongly believed that the monetary penalty notice issued in this case was unjust and disproportionate.

“Of course, I acknowledge that there were gaps in our processes in this case, but we have taken significant steps to address these since the breach to ensure data protection continues to be a high priority across the council.”

Leader David Parker added: “To issue such a high monetary penalty on a public authority in this economic climate was excessive, especially when the breach was self-reported and officers took all appropriate steps on the discovery of this incident and co-operated fully with the ICO at all times.

“Data and information security is a priority at SBC – and I am confident that the work taking place across the council to address any issues will be acknowledged appropriately in the future.”

The council, issued with the fine in September last year, only paid £200,000 of it – a reduction being made for early payment.

However, they then paid out more than £18,000 on legal costs to raise the appeal which, despite winning, they will have to foot themselves.