An inordinate amount of information is in the possession of governments departments and we trust that they use it carefully and appropriately. In the following case, a family who were asylum seekers had their confidential information posted onto the website of the Home Office and subsequently was awarded compensation.
The family who were from Iran had sought asylum and consisted of, father, mother and daughter, which had been refused. As a result, the Home Office requested that they leave as they had no right to remain in Britain. The Home Office published information relating to the process of removing failed asylum seekers and included in the statistics were private details of the father including his full name along with his date of birth. They also gave details of his immigration status.
Once the Home Office was made aware of this error the information was removed. The family felt that their safety and that of any family back in Iran had been compromised and as a result had to move from the area they had been living in because they felt unsafe.
They took their case to court who agreed that they had a reasonable basis for believing that the breach had caused distress and awarded damages of £12,500 to each of the adults and £2,500 to their daughter, citing the Data Protection Act 1998 and common law.
The Home Office appealed the decision to make awards to the wife and daughter as their details had not been released. They added that because there were high levels of information passing through their system occasionally mistakes happened and therefore it would be unreasonable to compensate everyone.
The Court dismissed the appeal because the breach, source and nature of the information would have enabled others to identify both the wife and daughter. The implication of that could not be underestimated as they had the right to believe that any information about them was kept safely and remained confidential. The Court supported the original decision including the level of compensation.