back to article Welsh police force fined £160,000 after losing sensitive video interview

South Wales Police has been hit with a £160,000 fine for losing a video recording which formed part of the evidence in a sex abuse case. The lost DVDs contained film of an interview with a victim, who had been sexually abused as a child. Despite the DVDs containing a graphic and disturbing account of events, the discs were …

  1. Pen-y-gors


    It does nobody any good collecting hefty fines from public bodies. There needs to be a system where the people responsible (i.e. the bosses) are personally fined, albeit smaller amounts. That might encourage them to get their house in order.

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: Silly

      Exactly. They might start to care if the money comes out of their wages. But as usual the public pay the fine for incompetence. How utterly disgusting that they made a victim go through a second interview.

      1. M7S

        Re: Silly

        To be fair to the police, the second interview was probably as they had two options, rather than the police decidng to be punitive torwards the victim which I infer from "how utterly disgusting that they made the victim go through a second interview":

        1. Abandon the case and go "meh". Probably not likely to inspire confidence in the victim, obtain justice or inspire future victims to come forward.

        2. Try again to get the best possible evidence, serving the victim and justice. The officer(s) making the decisions about repeating the interview may or may not be directly responsible for the loss of the first copy, but in any event are probably equally aghast at the loss and trying to salvage the best outcome possible from the situation.

    2. Lysenko

      Re: Silly

      I disagree. As the police are fond of reminding people when it suits them: "Ignorance of the Law is no defence".

      Consequently the "bosses" (is that you Len McClusky?) shouldn't be on the hook for this, whoever was heading up that investigation and whoever put the discs in the desk drawer should be held to account. The fact (if it is indeed a fact) that the frontline cops were not explicitly trained to obey the law is an irrelevance, as per standard police operating practice.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Silly

        Except that if the force has a policy of putting discs in drawers...

        The person writing said policy sholud be the one punished for said idiocy.

    3. Snowy Silver badge

      Re: Silly

      Peope who are the victims of the data lose should get most of the money from the fine rather than the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office). The costs of the ICO is already covered from our taxes so it is not like it needs the money to do its job.

    4. Greg D

      Re: Silly

      Doesnt make an awful lot of sense to fine a publicly funded body as a deterrent/punishment.

      It's not like they're set up to make profit. It's a bloody public service. All a fine will do is make everything worse, piled on top of austerity cuts to the police force in general, it's even more insane.

      Either demote, fine or discipline the officers responsible. We shouldn't be incurring financial penalties on non-profit or publicly funded services.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Excuse me?

    Critical evidence, just lobbed in a drawer?


    Do they do this for the odd kilo of crack cocaine?

    A knife used in a murder case?

    What else do they just lob in a drawer?

    Evidence should be treated like a bar of gold, otherwise, shit like this happens, or even worse, the evidence is still there, but some smart arse lawyer gets the person off on a technicality.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Incorrect title

    "Welsh police force fined £160,000 after losing sensitive video interview"

    should read

    "Taxpayers £160,000 after losing sensitive video interview after police screw up"

    I note from the story that no officers were fired or otherwise sanctioned, so they remain free to screw up again. If staff training (a convenient, wriggle-out lie in most cases) was the issue, then one of the more senior officers should have been for the chop.

    But holding senior managers accountable does not exist in the UK culture.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Incorrect title

      I imagine that someone's promotion prospects have just taken a serious ding.

      Which, in all honesty, is about the best we could hope for from a case like this. You can't go firing people just because they screw up - you need to show that they make a habit of it, and that they're at fault when they do it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Incorrect title

        If I left unencrypted customer information (the best equivalent I can think of) in a drawer, I'd be summarily dismissed. It says so right in my contract (one of the examples for professional misconduct).

        Why is it wrong of me to hold the police (who handle *MUCH MORE* sensitive information) to an equivalent standard?

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Incorrect title

          Because the use cases are not remotely comparable.

          If you have a rule like that, then I would guess that several things are true in your world:

          1. There is a standard encryption process that's normally applied to customer data. This encryption may be transparent to the user, and is certainly easy to use: you don't have to take special steps to apply it, and you probably don't even have to enter a secret password every time you want to access the information.

          1a. Alternatively, it may just be unusual for you to have to view a particular piece of confidential customer information at length, repeatedly, over a period of several days.

          2. It's unusual for data to be removed from the hardware and put on disposable media.

          3. There is no requirement to permanently store sensitive customer information in precisely this (unencrypted, easily portable) form.

          None of those conditions is true for police.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The more things change...

    ...the more they stay the same.

    Back in the days when we were trying to train police officers about preserving evidence from contamination by stray fibres I walked into a CID office & found a jacket which was part of the evidence (in a murder investigation!) hanging on the back of a chair. Forty years later and the nature of the evidence may have changed but it still takes time for proper handling procedures to be taken on board. In answer to Lost all faith's questions - that message has probably got through by now; it's this new-fangled stuff that causes problems.

  5. Bob Dole (tm)

    I agree with others. Forget the sensitive nature of the evidence, don't they have "evidence rooms" where this crap goes?

  6. Why Not?

    WTF again?

    "In addition to the monetary penalty, the Information Commissioner has asked the police force to sign an undertaking promising to revamp its data protection procedures, so as to safeguard against any repeat of the breach."

    Oh Goody lessons learnt, not even people will be retrained. I suggest they give those responsible a little note so they can remember not to do it again and to remind others. I believe it would be especially effective if they headed the note 'P45'.

  7. JimmyPage Silver badge

    It seems "Life on Mars"

    was a documentary after all ...

  8. JamesPond

    Victim Compensation

    And what compensation has been paid to the victim in all of this? He/she is probably very distressed knowing this could appear on YouTube at any time.

    A fine is just about acceptable for a private company where it is hurting the balance sheet. But for a public organisation, the money is basically just being passed from one public body to another. The police officers responsible should be sanctioned, whether that is a formal reprimand or something more serious. Common sense suggests that you don't put a DVD of a victims statement in a drawer whether its in a secure part of building or not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Victim Compensation

      Doesn't this break the chain of custody for this evidence as well?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Victim Compensation


        As it was lost, inevitably. If it hadn't been, in theory, yes. But very likely there'd have been an impeccable paper trail for it.

        1. Turtle

          Re: Chain of Custody

          "As it was lost, inevitably. "

          I'm not sure that you're correct here. The dvd was not physical evidence like a knife or spent bullets or similar; it was a record of testimony. I don't believe that they are treated the same way.

          What I think would have happened is this: If the defense refused to stipulate to the authenticity of either the recovered dvd itself or of the video of the interview on the recovered dvd, the recording of the interview could have been accepted as genuine if the victim / interviewee, or the interviewer, testified that the recording of the interview was in fact genuine and unaltered.

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Victim Compensation

      Police officers have to view video footage and they can't do that if it's locked in an evidence room. Witnesses and victims have a habit of being uncooperative and hard to find, scientific evidence is slow to arrive. Booking evidence in and out takes a long time and huge amounts of paperwork (all done longhand on paper forms with exhibit nunbers that make UUIDs look like friendly names). On top of that state of Police IT (see here passim) means it is by no means easy to find a PC capable of viewing the footage. The officer will be running this case and many others as well as responding to the pub fight, Wayne and Brittney's domestic and Mrs Jones upset about someone parking on "her" street (you think CID do initial interviews for rape, not a chance, dream on).

      So it's easy for a DVD to get put in a drawer waiting for a witness, the case eventually goes nowhere and the DVD forgotten. It's the price you pay for cutting a service to the bone and expecting 5 people to police 200,000.

      Let the down voting begin!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        @Adam52 Re: Victim Compensation

        Now that's the real world vis-a-vis the fantasy that the ICO, Ministries, and NGO's peddle. Would that were not the case.

      2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: Victim Compensation

        It's the price you pay for cutting a service to the bone and expecting 5 people to police 200,000.

        Let the down voting begin!

        You won't get one from me, because that is unfortunately true.

  9. phil dude


    Let's see:

    If the Govt hack your computer and causes you harm, there is no liability.

    If the Govt lies to you, there is no liability.

    If a corporation or causes you harm due to crap security for information they hold of yours, there is no liability.

    Anyone else see the trend here?


  10. All names Taken

    @ Incorrect title

    Spot on dood!

    There is no accountability (financial and audit definitions) at all in public services.

    Sure a fine but as has been pointed out the losers are the taxpayers and not the perps.

    Maybe £160,000 worth of senior management stuff can be grabbed by bailiffs in stead?

  11. Chris Byers


    My money is on 'thrown in the bin'.

    Who else here has (in the past) had a growing mountain of unlabled CD/DVD's created everytime you had to burn an ISO for some random install?

    At a certain point I'd have to see what was on each one before snapping and binning them once the mess could no longer be contained.

    Much the same here I suspect with no checking first.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lost?

      With random installs at home - yes.

      With classified data when working for a government agency - no.

      We only had machines with removable drives, the drives came out and went in the safe at night.

      Any unwanted drives/data/backups went to the monster crusher.

      No disks/phones/usb sticks/etc went in or out of the site - except to the monster crusher.

      The offices were checked at night by security - anything you had left out resulted in you spending a few hours explaining to some nice gentlemen from MoD plod/special branch that; no you weren't a commie spy just an idiot.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Film fun

    I have personal experience of this negligence by the plod. A few years ago a building near where I live went up in flames - suspected arson. I went out and finished off a roll of film taking shots of the flames with accompanying crowds etc. Plods asked me for film so they could develop it and look for suspects, get my family photos printed for free etc. You've guessed it, the bastards lost it, no compensation either. If they had brains they'd be even more dangerous.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Film fun

      You need to be careful. A few years ago, the office next to ours was burgled. The owner was quite techy, but naive. He gave the plod a DVD from the CCTV which did show a clear face. A few weeks later he's chasing the investigation up, only to be told "sorry sir, we can't proceed, we appear to have mislaid the DVD".

      "No problem" says owner "I can let you have as many copies as you like."

      Apparently, in the ensuing conversation, the detective at the other end clearly had no concept of digital evidence, and how it worked. When it finally dawned on him, he turned up at the premises, and proceeded to start threatening the owner with "obstruction of justice". By now, said owner had realised how the police work, and offered to post the video online (this was just when YouTube was a thing). They stopped the threats - but still didn't catch the burglar.

  13. Leeroy

    2 copies

    There should be 2 copies made during the interview, one for the prossecution and one for the defence. Did they manage to lose both of them ?

    Not so much 2 copies but 2 originals just to get that straight.

    1. Sarah Balfour

      Re: 2 copies

      If they're identical, by definition you can only have a single original, anything after that's a copy!

  14. David Pollard

    It's not the first time

    Also in 2011, South Wales Police lost crucial evidence which led to the collapse of a trial of "eight former South Wales Police officers and two civilians ... at Swansea Crown Court accused of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice." A QC-led public inquiry was finally ordered in February 2015.

    1. Graham Marsden

      Re: It's not the first time

      > South Wales Police "lost" crucial evidence which led to the collapse of a trial of eight former South Wales Police officers

      Here, let me put the quotes in the right place...

  15. andy gibson

    also happened in 2007

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