Two former police officers who leaked details of the alleged discovery of porn on the Commons computer of Damian Green to the press have been referred to the data protection watchdog.
Commissioner Cressida Dick told the London Assembly today that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) was the right body to carry forward the investigation into their actions.
The move follows the sacking of Green as first secretary of state after he admitted making misleading statements in response to the claims first made by former Met assistant commissioner Bob Quick.
A second officer involved in the 2008 investigation into Home Office leaks – former detective constable Neil Lewis – subsequently went public with similar allegations.
Dick told the assembly: “We are disappointed to see that it appears that former colleagues have put into the public domain via the media material that they appear to have had access to as part of a confidential investigation.
“We have been reviewing that in the Met in the last couple of weeks. We have had a QC helping us with that.
“I can say today that, in relation to that matter, having received our advice, we have made a referral to the Information Commissioner’s Office as we believe that they are the appropriate people to carry on that investigation into essentially data protection matters.”
Under the Data Protection Act, anyone who is prosecuted and found guilty could face an unlimited fine.
Dick said it was essential the public were able to trust the police to protect confidential information which they came across in the course of their inquiries.
“I have a very strong view that the responsibility that goes with being a police officer or a member of police staff is very clear in relation to people’s personal information,” she said.
“Every day we all come into contact with highly confidential and highly personal information in relation to investigations and other interactions. It is vital that the public trust us to do our absolute best to safeguard that information.”
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement: “We can confirm that we have received a referral from the Metropolitan Police Service that explains their belief that offences under the Data Protection Act 1998 have been committed by former MPS officers.
“As the UK’s data protection regulator, we’ll be looking at whether individuals acted unlawfully by retaining or disclosing personal data.
“These are serious allegations and we are investigating to determine whether the law has been broken and what further action is necessary including potential criminal prosecution.”
Picture: Reuters/Hannah McKay