A probation officer who revealed a victim’s new address to the alleged perpetrator has been fined just £150.
Now serious concern are being raised, by domestic violence charities and the Information Commissioner, over how seriously the privacy of domestic violence victims is taken by the courts.
The alleged victim broke off all contact with police after her address was given out (file photo posed by model)
Victoria Idowu, 39, provided the victim’s full name, new address and date of birth, along with the details of the investigating officer.
She told Camberwell Magistrates Court on Thursday that she believed that the individual already knew this information and she was keen to avoid a case of mistaken identity.
The terrified victim subsequently contacted the investigating officer on 6 January 2013 - the day the information was illegally provided - in a distressed state, terrified that the alleged perpetrator knew where she was.
The victim broke off all contact with the police and social services, believing that they could no longer be trusted to help and protect her. And the investigation against the alleged perpetrator was subsequently dropped.
Idowu was fined £150 and ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge and a £250 contribution towards costs, in a case brought by the Information Commissioner's Office.
Domestic violence and privacy campaigners expressed horror at the outcome of the case.
"Women are at greatest risk of being murdered at the point of separation or after leaving a violent partner. Domestic violence has killed an average of 2 woman a week for at least the last ten years," Karen Ingala Smith
chief executive of women's charity nia.
"Victoria Idowu lost her job and was fined a paltry £150 for risking a woman’s life. But this isn’t just about Victoria Idowu.
"There is a systematic failure to respond adequately to violence against women in the UK. For too long successive governments have focused on violence against women and girls as a criminal justice issue if they have focused on it at all but women and girls continue to be failed.
"I urge the Government to open a public inquiry to investigate why victims of domestic and sexual violence are still not getting the protection they deserve from state agencies."
Idowu, who had worked at the trust since October 2005, has already been the subject of disciplinary proceedings by London Probation Trust, which resulted in her employment being terminated due to gross misconduct.
Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said: “Ms Idowu escaped with only a relatively minor penalty and no criminal record. The government must act now to introduce tougher penalties for individuals who illegally access and disclose personal information.
“This is not just a criminal breach of the Data Protection Act, but it also led to a police investigation of alleged domestic abuse being dropped.”
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. The ICO has called on the government to introduce deterrent sentences, including the threat of prison, to be available to the courts to stop the unlawful use of personal information.