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Data Protection Commission

Press Release

10 June 2008

Statement from Data Protection Commissioner on Conviction 

The Dublin Metropolitan District Court today fined Iarnród Éireann for its failure to co-operate with an investigation the Data Protection Commissioner was conducting on foot of a complaint received by him in August 2007.

The court had previously heard evidence from the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner of a number of unsuccessful attempts which had been made between September and November 2007 by the Office to obtain information from the company on a co-operative basis in line with the Data Protection Commissioner's normal procedures when carrying out investigations.

Iarnród Éireann was convicted for failing to respond and supply information sought in an Information Notice issued by the Commissioner last November. Numerous attempts to get information or a response from the company on a co-operative basis had failed.  Under Section 12 of the Data Protection Acts 1988 & 2003, the Data Protection Commissioner is empowered to serve an Information Notice enabling him to obtain the information requested in the Notice which is deemed necessary for the performance of his functions. It is the first time that the Commissioner has had to bring a prosecution against any entity for failing to respond to an Information Notice.

The Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes indicated: "I am disappointed in any case where my Office has to go to Court to get answers to some questions as part of an investigation.  In this case, we repeatedly tried to establish the facts of the case that we were investigating from Iarnród Éireann, but just could not do so.  Of course it is of additional concern that the company in question is a State company and might, therefore, have been expected to have taken a formal statutory investigation being conducted by my Office more seriously.

Today's court proceedings demonstrate that I will not hesitate in taking a prosecution against any data controller, from any sector, who fails to comply in full with a legal notice which I may serve upon them.  I wish to use my legal powers sparingly, but I will use them when necessary.

I am glad to say that Iarnród Éireann has now supplied answers to some of the issues posed by my Office as part of its investigation.  I am hopeful that the complaint which prompted this can be concluded to the satisfaction of all."