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Police pay out £7,000 after hate crime data breach

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A woman has received £7,000 in compensation after Avon and Somerset Police used a video of an autism hate crime she reported without her consent.

The North Somerset woman, dubbed Miss A to protect her privacy, was pushed to breaking point by the incident and tried to take her own life. The force has apologised but said its use of the footage for training purposes was well-intentioned.

The woman was also left upset and distressed when police officers disclosed details of the incident in October 2019 to her boss, despite it being unrelated to her work.

The force admitted the data breach but said it happened in a bid to safeguard Miss A. It did not uphold her complaint about the footage being shown the housing association that jointly owns her home.

Miss A, who is in her forties, said: "I truly felt as though the police were trying to get at me from all angles - work, home and my housing association. I was a victim of hate crime and the police have done nothing to help me. This made me feel as though there was no way out, driving me to attempt to take my own life by jumping off of the third floor of the police station. After being detained due to this incident, a police officer said she recognised me from a recent training video."

It was only then, three months after Miss A reported the alleged hate crime, that she learned that the footage of an officer de-escalating the situation was being used for training purposes without her permission, and had potentially been viewed by dozens of officers.

She said she felt ashamed, degraded and anxious as to who else may have seen the footage.

Her solicitors at Hayes Connor said: "We understand that Miss A was asked to provide consent to it being used in this way and she indicated that she wanted to see the footage first and also that she would want any identifying features removed. The defendant Avon and Somerset Police made enquiries about pixelating the footage and was told this was possible but would take a considerable time."

Miss A claimed her treatment had been driven by a lack of understanding of autism, ADHD and tic disorder, and said the incidents had damaged her trust in the police. She added: "They rang me a few days ago, concerned that I don’t report things when I’ve been a victim, but why would I? It seems to me that, because the compensation isn’t coming out of their wages, they just don’t care. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve decided to use the compensation money to move house. I just don’t want the police to be anywhere near me."

Avon and Somerset Police has confirmed that the footage of her has been "safely and securely, and will not be used for further dissemination", but Miss A said she wants it to be destroyed.

A spokesperson for the force said: "Avon and Somerset Police has apologised for a data protection breach relating to the use of bodyworn video footage of an incident in October 2019 involving Miss A. The footage was used to help with officer training and was well-intentioned."

Avon and Somerset Police issued an apology to Miss A for the upset and distress caused by this breach. The apology sought to reassure her that any harm caused was unintentional and any opportunities to learn from this case would be taken.

"Information was also incorrectly disclosed to Miss A’s manager about the incident in October 2019, which was done with the intention of helping to safeguard Miss A. A further complaint by Miss A relating to material provided to a housing association was not upheld following an investigation by the professional standards department. This decision was upheld by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. The Information Commissioner’s Office was also satisfied with the reasons for this disclosure."

The spokesperson for Hayes Connor said: "Hayes Connor Solicitors have dealt with many cases against a number of different constabularies across the UK. We need to raise awareness of just how important data protection is, and I feel protecting the privacy of an individual should always be a priority."