The device was not encrypted. The incident followed a similar case in October 2011, when the ICO was alerted to the loss of another unencrypted hard drive containing the details of 16,000 prisoners at HMP High Down prison in Surrey. In May 2012 the prison service provided new hard drives to all prisons still backing-up data in this way, but without instructing that the encryption option should be turned on. ICO Head of Enforcement, Stephen Eckersley, said: “The fact that a government department with security oversight for prisons can supply equipment to 75 prisons throughout England and Wales without properly understanding, let alone telling them, how to use it beggars belief.”

The MOJ, working with the National Offenders and Management Service, has now taken action to ensure all hard drives used by prisons are securely encrypted. Separately, a paralegal has been prosecuted by the ICO under s 55 of the Data Protection Act for illegally taking the sensitive information of over 100 people before leaving for a rival firm. The information, which included workload lists,  file notes and template documents, was contained in six emails sent in the weeks before the paralegal left the firm. He was fined £300, ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge and £438.63 prosecution costs.