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Fury at prison data charity shop blunder

PUBLISHED: 16:40 24 September 2008 | UPDATED: 10:40 12 August 2010

THE chairman of a high-security prison board whose personal details were sold for £1 by accident in a charity shop said he was extremely worried at the data blunder. The names and addresses of members of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at Belm

THE chairman of a high-security prison board whose personal details were sold for £1 by accident in a charity shop said he was 'extremely worried' at the data blunder.

The names and addresses of members of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at Belmarsh prison, where Britain's most high-risk offenders are jailed, were left in a folder and sold to a pensioner at the Mencap shop in Cotmandene Crescent, Orpington.

The information included the mobile numbers of the 16 members of the IMB, a volunteer board selected by the Ministry of Justice for monitoring prison conditions and the welfare of inmates.

Chairman of Belmarsh IMB, Davis Pinchin, said: "It's extremely worrying and we're very sorry about it. Everyone is upset and we don't know who is responsible. I have been trying to contact everyone involved.

"It's very unfortunate and we are embarrassed that this has happened. We want to get to the bottom of it. Obviously someone has made a mistake in discarding the folder."

Mr Pinchin said he didn't know whether a current or past member was responsible for the blunder and that several members live in and around the Orpington area.

He added: "We have ongoing training on a local and national level about the treatment of confidential information. We are taught about shredding. The sheet of paper with our names and addresses should not be in the public domain because that could put us at risk."

General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association, Brian Caton, warned the incident could have been more serious and said sensitive information should be handled more carefully.

He said: "It does seem to me that there is a great deal of information put in to people's hands these days.

"We live in an information world where people need information to do their job but of course that means there is more chance they will lose it. I always check my pockets before donating to a charity shop.

"This is a regrettable mistake. It shouldn't have been leaked. We need to look at exactly who gets this information and whether it should leave the prison.

"It could have been more serious if it had included information about a prison move or a further offence committed by a prisoner while in jail."

In response to whether the members of the IMB had been put at risk and if whoever was responsible should be disciplined, Mr Caton, said: "If someone really wants to find out your address they will find it.

"People can become a target. I'm more in favour of making sure it doesn't ever happen again."

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "We have a limited comment to make because an inquiry has been opened. We take these issues very seriously. The Prison Service will be investigating the circumstances of this incident."

This is the latest security breach to have hit the prison system in less than a month.

On August 22 this year, a memory stick containing details of 127,000 criminals in England and Wales was lost by an external contractor.

It contained sensitive information about 33,000 persistent offenders including their names, addresses and dates of birth.

In January, the Ministry of Defence came under fire after admitting the loss of the personal details of 600,000 people interested in joining the Armed Forces.

Seven months later, in July, it was blasted again after revealing 658 of their laptops had been stolen and 89 lost in four years and only 32 had been recovered.

Meanwhile, details of thousands of staff from Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup, were reported as lost in January this year.

Confidential personal information of staff employed from 1974 to 1996 was lost after a microfiche film containing the information went missing from a secure room at the hospital along with the machine used to read it.

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