back to article Prosecutors opt for 'malfeasance' over DPA to charge officials

If you are employed in the public sector, you can forget about offences under the Data Protection Act if there is deliberate misuse of personal data. In the absence of a custodial sentence, in more serious cases, prosecutors are increasingly opting for the blunt instrument that is the common law offence of "malfeasance in …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You have to admire the foresight and intelligence of the people that wrote the laws several hundred years ago. Laws they wrote cover abuse that didn't exist at the time of drafting the law. Meanwhile, existing laws are obselete as they are drafted.

    If only vandalism covered defacing websites...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    "misfeasance in public office" (eg malicious exercise of official duty).

    So traffic wardens who issue tickets without waiting the legally permissble 10 minutes for loading on double yellows, who say its ok because you can appeal it......

    Interesting.. Im going to have some fun with this one.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Just sayin'.

      1. lpopman

        titular correction

        @moitey: RTFA, misfeasance is a specific law, seperate from malfeasance.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        "Hoist with his own petard" Icon? (Shakespeare?)

        "Malfeasance in public office" has two related cousins – "nonfeasance in public office" (eg a wilful neglect of duty) and "misfeasance in public office" (eg malicious exercise of official duty).

        ^Thats from the article.

  3. cor

    What about this one?

    "failure by a common innkeeper to provide board and lodging"

    This is also an offence under Common Law. What foresight.

  4. JaitcH

    Now that Blair has been 'outed' for ...

    misleading the Commons, according to evidence from Lord Goldsmith, see < >, does this mean Blair could b charged with malfeasance?

  5. RW

    @ AC 18th January 2011 12:38 GMT

    You don't understand. There is no law specifying this offense. It's a common-law offense, not a statutory offense.

    Something not often appreciated is that most "law" is not statutory, but is common law, derived from judicial precedents over the centuries.

    Also note that the three offenses mentioned, mis-, mal-, and non-feasance in public office, are all things which everyone would agree should be against the law. That's the beauty of the common law system: it works without the need for gas bags, do-gooders, and ideologists in Parliament being involved.

  6. Luther Blissett

    Common laws for little fish

    OTOH something is needed to catch the sharks. Like a RICO. Call it RIMIPO - Racketeering Inspired Malfeasance In Public Office.

    1. JimC

      @to catch the sharks...

      AIUI the current law can attract a life sentence its difficult to think of anything your new variation would be good for other than to generate yet another poorly drafted and badly worded law...

    2. Graham Marsden

      Better not be...

      ... Really Undesirable Malfeasance in Public Office!

      (Ooh missus ;-) )

  7. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    MPs too ?

    Could we use the same law against all those expenses-grabbing MPs ? We might get a few more court appearances then. *That* would help to restore confidence in our elected representatives.

  8. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Up

    Now that's what I'm talking about!

    Whilst I'm not generally in favour of vague and ill-defined laws (mostly because they're used to criminalise innocent members of the public for doing things that The Powers That Be don't like) this one definitely seems to redress the balance of "One law for them..."!

    Forget about piddly slaps on the wrist from the DPA legislation, *THIS* is something that should make those in Public Office really sit up and take notice that there is something that can and will be used to penalise them for being negligent with the public's data.

    So if the Police, Council, MOD, whoever has a clearly stated policy of eg No e-mailing spreadsheets, no data on USB sticks, no unencrypted laptops, no posting insecure CDs full of data etc and someone breaks those policies it *won't* simply be a case of "naughty, don't do it again", it will be "You have been found guilty by this Court..."

    That should stop such slip-shod behaviour from being so common place!

    1. Michael Dunn
      Thumb Up


      Surely this will cover those police officers who fail to pursue investigations against people in public office who appear guilty of mal/mis/nonfeasance. Keep their noses to the grindstone!

  9. corestore

    Not a valid offence...

    'Unconstitutionally broad'

    Oh wait; there's no such thing as an 'unconstitutional law' in the UK, and even if there were, there isn't a supreme court which has the power to strike it down...

  10. Sam Therapy
    Thumb Up

    IMO, a great little set of laws

    Not necessarily vague, either. They seem to have been drafted with the possibility there were going to be as then unheard of abuses of public office.

  11. Steve Davies

    things we should be tort

    Malfeasance is just a tort isn't it ?

    Misconduct in Public Office is an offence and has more serious consequences.

    Councils seems to specialise on nonfeasance - in areas wer they have 'discretion' - and walk away scott free.

    Its only hwne there is something like the DPA that removes that discretion (to make a decsion) that malfeasance seems to bite.

    Shame that.

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