TEK Journalism, along with other media sources, has already reported on UK Tory MP Oliver Letwin. His crime? Well rather his indiscretion, or so it seemed.
Mr Letwin was caught on camera reading confidential mail and then carelessly "binning it" in a public litter bin. Around the same time as this came to light another Conservative MP, Dr Liam Fox, was also under the spotlight. The two men's indiscretions did the Tory Party no favours. In fact both made them into a laughing stock.
Mr Letwin's foolishness was captured by UK media source the Mirror. Today, November 15, 2011, Mr Letwin was finally reprimanded.
He has broken the law and received a slap in the wrist.
An investigation by the UK Information Commissioner's Office found that he had breached the Data Protection Act. He received a formal reprimand by the privacy watchdog. He has been warned that a repeat of this behaviour will force them to take a hard stance.
It is worth pointing out that should a UK hospital for instance, include paperwork with a patient's name, address or the like on it, in normal waste, they are fined heavily. All papers are shredded and disposed of carefully to avoid more crippling financial penalties. Yet an MP with supposedly a responsible post in government can throw many documents away as if they were confectionery wrappers.
The Information Commissioner said after the warning, "Constituents entrust their Member of Parliament with all sorts of personal information and should never expect the details of the concerns they've raised in confidence to end up in a park bin for anyone to see. It is clear that Mr Letwin has learned from this incident and we're pleased that he has co-operated fully. It is fortunate that most of the information he discarded was not of a particularly sensitive nature and was therefore unlikely to cause substantial distress to his constituents. But if we receive any further reports or complaints about Mr Letwin's conduct in this area then we will consider taking more formal action. I'm sure this case will also prompt other MPs to review their handling of personal data to ensure they're doing all they can to keep it secure."
In October Mr Letwin was caught disposing of 100 emails, memos and letters in a park. His "junk mail" included five Intelligence and Security Committee letters. Hardly just innocent shopping lists then.
The information did apparently include some "sensitive data" but if it had not Letwin still acted badly. These days we are all encouraged to have home shredders and dispose of letters and the like carefully. With identity theft on the increase we need to follow the advice. However what point is there in us doing that if a Tory MP is throwing information away willy nilly. IMHO he deserves more than a formal reprimand.
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog