A FORMER social services support officer who unlawfully accessed people's social care records and gave details to parents at their children's school has appeared in court.

Michelle Shipsey was prosecuted for viewing records of people known to her between May 25 and July 26 last year without a business need to do so.

The offences came to light after a service user informed their social worker that Shipsey had revealed information about them to one or more parents at their children’s school.

An internal investigation was launched and Shipsey was placed on management leave, although no further action was taken against her as she resigned from the council on August 12 this year.

Shipsey, of Manor Gardens, Verwood, Dorset, appeared before Poole Magistrates’ Court on December 2 and admitted one offence of unlawfully obtaining personal data, in breach of section 170 of the Data Protection Act 2018. She was sentenced to a six month conditional discharge, ordered to pay costs of £700 and a victim surcharge of £20.

Hazel Padmore, Head of Investigations at the Information Commissioner’s Office which brought the prosecution, said: “Individuals accessing social services support are often already in a vulnerable position and have the absolute right to expect their dealings are treated with the utmost respect and in accordance with data protection laws.

“Although new to the role, Shipsey had undertaken both data protection and cyber security training and therefore was acutely aware of the responsibilities she had towards maintaining client confidentiality.

“Our successful prosecution of this individual sends a clear message, that we will take action against individuals who take it upon themselves to abuse their position of trust”.