Rape claim files found in bin
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A law firm is under investigation after a cache of its files containing confidential details of rape complainants were found in a bin.
The files believed to belong to a Manchester law firm, Nicholas and Partners, included graphic accounts of alleged attacks and the names of the alleged victims and accused. The files were found in a council bin in a public right of way by a canal in Ancoats, Manchester, at the weekend. People complaining of sexual offences against them are entitled to lifelong anonymity.
The law firm told Manchester Evening News that it had no idea how the files had ended up there.
Both the Information Commissioner and the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA), the profession’s watchdog, have launched investigations into what happened. It is understood that the files contained the personal details of 77 people accused of offences, as well as naming accusers and witnesses.
The files cover every stage of the solicitor’s process from arrest and custody records to the details of the case being dropped. Some of the files date back to 2007. One case file includes allegations against a man accused of kidnap, including details of the “torture” which was alleged to have been endured by the complainant.
The Information Commissioner’s Office described the incident as “a potential data breach”. A spokesperson said: “We have been informed of a potential data breach involving legal documents being found in a public place and will be looking into the details. All organisations have a duty under data protection law to ensure they keep personal information in their care safe and that they securely dispose of it when it’s no longer needed.”
A spokesman for the SRA said: “Now that we have been made aware of the situation, we will make the necessary enquiries and take appropriate action where needed. “Solicitors must act in the best interest of their clients. Our rules make clear our expectations around keeping their information confidential. This includes complying with any relevant legislation such as data protection.”
It is understood that the watchdog will not wait until any investigation by the Information Commissioner is completed. A source at the SRA said that where there is a risk to the interests of law firm clients, “it is incumbent on us to act as quickly as possible so we will sort it out immediately”.
Despite its name, the Manchester law firm involved is a one-office sole practice run by Kevin Michael Nicholas, who qualified as a solicitor in 1985. Nicholas was not available for comment yesterday.