A Justice Committee report on the theft of personal data says that the maximum £5,000 penalty magistrates can impose under the Data Protection Act is not enough to stop “serious offences that can cause great harm”.
Sir Alan Beith, the chair of the Justice Committee, adds: “Fines are used to punish breaches of data protection laws, but they provide little deterrent when the financial gain exceeds the penalty.”
The Committee wants Justice Minister Ken Clarke to introduce powers to hand out custodial sentences already agreed by Parliament.
The report adds that potential misuses are being missed because the Information Commissioner does not have the power to force companies to undergo information audits.
Sir Alan says: “The Information Commissioner’s lack of inspection power is limiting his ability to identify problems or investigate potential data abuses.
“Ministers must examine how to enable the Commissioner to investigate properly without increasing the regulatory burden on business or the public sector.”
The Committee also backed Government calls to ban referral fees – money paid by lawyers for data on drivers involved in accidents – in personal injury cases.