RUC George Cross Foundation applicants' details emailed to other candidates

RUC officer holds his cap The foundation oversees funding of projects which mark the RUC's achievements and sacrifices

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The names of nine people interested in becoming trustees of a RUC memorial body were mistakenly passed to another potential applicant, the BBC has learned.

Last month, Justice Minister David Ford began the process of recruiting three trustees for the RUC George Cross Foundation.

One woman who sent for an application pack received a letter from the Department of Justice saying her name had been mistakenly sent in an email to another potential applicant.

The letter also said that the breach happened when a member of staff had "inadvertently attached the incorrect document in an email".

It has emerged that the identities of eight other potential applicants were also mistakenly forwarded.

Mr Ford said no-one's personal security had been compromised.

"It clearly should not have happened and an apology has been issued to each of those people," he said`.

"But I think in terms of the question of the breach it was at a pretty minor level."

Angry

The woman, who does not want to be named because of security concerns, said she was shocked and angry when she received the letter.

Start Quote

She is deeply concerned that information she gave in good faith has not been treated appropriately”

End Quote Michael Copeland Ulster Unionist assembly member

She said that the nature of the post - representing the interests of an organisation linked to the RUC - meant that the department should have taken care to protect the identities of potential applicants.

Last August, Mr Ford apologised after some former police reservists received letters from the Department of Justice in which reference to their prior roles was clearly visible.

Ulster Unionist assembly member Michael Copeland said he was concerned, not just because it was a data protection matter, but also because the nature of the post meant there was a serious security issue.

"This is not the first occasion on which a section under the control of this minister has had issues surrounding the security of individuals and the way they look after data which is under their control," he said.

"This particular case has given the victim, if that's the right word, some cause for concern, given that she had expressed an interest in being appointed as a trustee of the RUC George Cross Foundation.

"She is a person of some substance, very intelligent, and she is deeply concerned that information she gave in good faith has not been treated appropriately within the terms of the Data Protection Act by the Department of Justice."

Apology

In the department's letter to the woman, they said the mistake was immediately picked up on and referred to the appropriate section.

The letter said the department wished to apologise for the distress and annoyance caused, and that staff had been reminded of their responsibilities around data handling.

In a statement, the department said no contact details, addresses or other identifying information was included.

The statement also said that the issue had been referred to the Information Commissioner.

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