Does Data Protection Act protect the guilty?

  WhiteTruckMan 19:50 12 Jan 2008

Theres been some mention recently in these forums of Jeremy Clarksons gaffe regarding his bank account. I read it, along with links to the story and confess to mild amusement, with thoughts along the lines of 'silly sod, thats what you get for tempting fate ' etc. But something has popped back up in my memory -yes I know, it sometimes takes a while for things to sink in-About the DPA. Heres the link again

click here

and the relevant piece is "The bank cannot find out who did this because of the Data Protection Act..."

I'm thinking that surely what happened was a criminal offence, no matter what the motivation behind it was, so how can the guilty party(s) be protected by legislation? And if so, what chance does ordinary joe citizen have when this happens, especially if the banks really are as reluctant to prosecute cases of fraud as I have heard them do so.


  VCR97 19:55 12 Jan 2008

I heard a piece on Radio 4 about this. I'm pretty sure that someone from the office of the Data Commissioner (or whatever he is called) said that this statement was incorrect. I think that many people use the DPA as an excuse for inaction.

  recap 21:01 12 Jan 2008

I don't think the DPA would come in to this as the person who accessed Mr Clarksons account didn't need to give his own details just Clarksons account details.

click here and enter Clarksons details, you or I could have done it. Who would know?

  Forum Editor 23:39 12 Jan 2008

I received a letter from Virgin Mobile, asking me to contact them about my Pay as you go phone account. I didn't have such an account, so I rang them with a sense of foreboding. Sure enough, someone had opened an account using my personal details and my credit card, and had proceeded to top up the account to the tune of £50 a day for fourteen days. I hadn't spotted the charges because the period occurred between credit card bills.

It was sorted out, but at some inconvenience - I had to wait ten days for a new card. I asked Virgin to give me details of how and where the account had been opened, in the hope it might give me a clue about how my card details had been obtained, but they wouldn't tell me anything at all. The account was in my name, remember, and my credit card had been charged, but they said they had to protect the data of the person responsible.

I contacted the Information Commissioner, and made an official complaint, but he upheld Virgin's decision. Even though someone has committed a criminal offence, his/her personal data must be protected in this way.

  WhiteTruckMan 23:56 12 Jan 2008

of the thread title is correct then. The data protection act DOES protect the guilty.


  Forum Editor 00:05 13 Jan 2008

until someone has been tried and convicted of a criminal offence he/she is not technically guilty of anything, and the law protects the innocent.

Otherwise we would have a situation in which there's a presumption of guilt, and that mustn't happen. Someone is obvioulsy guilty, but until there's a conviction everyone is innocent - it may sound odd, but it does make good sense.

  PalaeoBill 22:04 13 Jan 2008

I had a direct debit set up on my account for car insurance by someone who had filled in the form incorrectly, (with his name but my account number, two digits had been transposed).
I called the bank as soon as I saw the entry on my statement. They refunded the payment immediately and stopped the DD. They asked me to contact the Police which I did and the Police (who kep me fully informed at each stage) obtained the DD application form from the Bank with the intention to prosecute.
The Police investigation discovered it was an accident and all was well.
I was told that all DD's are protected and so I can't understand how Clarkson lost money. Surely his bank should have refunded it.

  Simsy 22:32 13 Jan 2008

FE's post...can be paraphrased as a slight rewriting of the title of this thread;

"Data protection act protects the innocent until proven guilty."

Which is, I think, the way it should be. Though I agree that on first appearance, without thinking it through, the cases refered to do seem untoward.



  WhiteTruckMan 22:50 13 Jan 2008

is an absolute, with no grey areas. Granted that mistakes can happen as in Paleobills case, but you don't mistakenly put someone elses name and the corresponding account details (and address too, if relevant) on any kind of financial application form.

While I fully accept the innocent until proven guilty concept, it seems to me that when a fraud of this nature has been commited, the DPA is actively obstructing justice by sheltering the perpetrator of a crime.

I know analogies can be risky things, but would anyone like to imagine the uproar if a witness to the Madalaine Mcann kidnapping came foreward, but was prevented from identifying the perpetrator, because of their right to privacy and/or anonymity?


  georgemac © 10:06 14 Jan 2008

I set up another bill payment facility on my online banking account yesterday and was immediately sent an email confirming this

I have never set up a direct debit online, don't think you can as it is the other party that set's it up, but is the bank not obliged to inform you in writing or by email a DD has been set up before the first payment can be taken

DD your rights click here

DD - getting started - Bank has to give you advance notice of payment being taken click here

  WhiteTruckMan 21:55 14 Jan 2008

I dont accept that the kind of error that you propose , in terms of transposing 2 characters (or digits) or even changing 1 or 2 in confusion will result in a valid name, AND account number, AND sort code, all matching the same (other) person. And if you have to provide an address as well then it simply doesnt happen. And thats why I say that if a correct set of data is provided for a person, without that persons knowledge then that is fraud, pure and simple. However, in the interests of justice any person doing so should be given (i.e. compelled) ample opportunity to give account of themselves, firstly to the police and if they consider it necessary, then in a court of law. What they should NOT be able to do is to hide behind a piece of legislation in a manner I feel sure was never intended by the authors of the DPA.


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