Soham case highlights pitfalls in data protection

Public and private bodies alike must ensure that child protection is never
subordinate to data protection, according to Mary Mallett, president of the
Society of Personnel Officers (Socpo).

Speaking after the Soham murders trial, Mallet said the case highlighted
where systems can go wrong.

"I doubt there’s an HR unit in the land that isn’t checking its
recruitment processes," she said.

Keith Lewington, partner specialising in data protection at law firm
Shoosmiths, said: "Many people will see this is as a classic example of
where a law designed to protect against a few unscrupulous abusers of personal
information can prevent the sensible and prudent storage of data for genuine

Under the 1984 Act, and its successor, the Data Protection Act 1998, anybody
who holds information about a living individual is obliged to abide by the
eight data protection principles.

One of these says information must not be retained for any longer than necessary
for the purpose for which it was originally obtained.

"There is no guidance on what is ‘longer than necessary’, and it relies
totally on individual interpretation," said Lewington.

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