Scottish Borders Council fine is overturned

Scottish Borders Council headquarters at Newtown St Boswells.
Scottish Borders Council headquarters at Newtown St Boswells.

Scottish Borders Council will be refunded the £250,000 fine it was issued with for a data breach, a tribunal panel ruled today.

The initial fine was issued in September 2012 after former employees’ pension records were found in an over-filled paper recycle bank in a supermarket car park.

However, after a four-day hearing which concluded in Edinburgh today, the Information Tribunal panel overturned the decision by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to issue a penalty of £250,000.

The council paid the fine in September order to achieve a 20% discount on the total amount, but lodged an appeal.

After consideration of SBC’s appeal, the tribunal concluded there to be insufficient grounds to justify the penalty. The amount already paid will now be refunded in due course.

The Information Tribunal has requested both parties work together to identify the progress made on improving processes and systems since the breach.

Tracey Logan, chief Executive of SBC said: “I am extremely pleased with the outcome and have always strongly believed that the monetary penalty notice issued by the ICO in this case was unjust and disproportionate.

“Of course, I acknowledge that there were gaps in our processes in this case - but we have taken significant steps to address these since the breach to ensure data protection continues to be a high priority across the council.

“We are committed to continue to work with the ICO to ensure our processes and policies are as robust as possible.”

David Parker, Leader of the Council, added: “I am delighted with today’s outcome. To issue such a high monetary penalty on a public authority in this economic climate was excessive, especially when the breach was self-reported and officers took all appropriate steps on the discovery of this incident and co-operated fully with the ICO at all times.

“Data and information security is a priority at SBC - and I am confident that the work taking place across the Council to address any issues will be acknowledged appropriately in the future.

“I would like to thank the members of the Information Tribunal Appeal Panel who ensured that our appeal was heard and conducted in a fair and constructive way.

“The process of the appeal has taken four days of hearings and the Tribunal members had considerable written material to consider - but they have worked tirelessly to ensure a fair and sensible outcome.”