NINETY three police staff in Greater Manchester have abused data access since 2009, new figures reveal.

Eight were sacked following disciplinary proceedings and 10 resigned or retired before proceedings took place.

Offences ranged from stealing information to trying to change records about police incidents.
Bolton Council’s community safety representative, Cllr Derek Burrows, said the incidents undermined the public’s confidence in the police, while Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said offences are falling.

The figures, obtained by The Bolton News, show details of disciplinary hearings for Data Protection Act offences from the start of 2009 to the end of 2013.

The statistics do not show where in Greater Manchester the offences took place.
Cllr Burrows said: “Any breach of data protection laws is a serious matter, and undermines public confidence in the police.

“I know GMP take all matters like these seriously, and I accept that one breach of data protection laws is one too many.

“We have to remember there are over 10,000 staff that work for GMP when we look at these figures.”

Last November, we reported how detective Daniel Withnell, aged 31, of Cranark Close, Heaton, was jailed for four years for using a police database to get information about a man called Robert Sandiford in an attempt to extort cash out of him.

In another incident exposed in the figures, a sergeant revealed the personal details of someone on the police computer system in October 2010. He was given advice about his conduct.

A member of staff was sacked in February 2009 for breaching the Act and for making a racist comment while another was sacked in February 2011 for accessing confidential data.

In July 2011, a PC was given a written warning after stealing a pen drive containing sensitive information and in September 2011, a PC and a PCSO were caught reading an incident report related to a personal matter. They undertook “management action”.

The files do not include the case of former police call handler Kathryn Smith, of Droylsden, who was sacked this year after revealing the name of a police informer to an associate of convicted murderer Dale Cregan in Tameside.

Ms Smith claimed there was a culture at GMP for staff to look at details of police incidents where they lived and that it was tolerated by supervisors.

The county’s police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd said: “Although the number of breaches is relatively small, and most of the breaches are not what you would term serious, the public would expect any incident to be dealt with properly and robustly.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Rumney, head of GMP’s professional standards branch, said the number of offences has fallen in the last year due to more prevention work.

He added: “The legal, financial and reputational risks of failing to look after personal information are clear and GMP has stringent security measures in place to protect people's information and make sure it is handled correctly.”