A FAMILY who found out on Facebook that a legal application containing their personal information had been misplaced by the Ministry of Justice have spoken of their shock.

Megan and Louise Allsop-Wood, from Durham, submitted a document to the London Civil and Family Courts in December 2020, so Louise could have parental responsibility for Megan’s one-year-old daughter Aria Rose.

For three weeks, they heard nothing but were stunned when Megan received a message on Facebook from a third party who had received the application in a letter sent about a separate matter.

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The document was packed with sensitive personal information, including names, dates of birth, passport numbers and details of the application.

Megan, 26, who is a fitness instructor, said: “It is always nerve-wracking when you fill in legal documents and forms, but we assumed that the application was going to be taken care of properly.

“We were surprised when we didn’t hear anything for a few weeks, but I was just gobsmacked when I got the Facebook message.

“Our personal information had been sent to a complete stranger.

“It was a huge shock and we were just thankful that they chose to seek me out.

“You simply never expect something like this to happen, particularly when you are dealing with the courts.

“It is welcome that steps have seemingly been taken to stop this from happening again, but it does also beg the question as to how this was allowed to happen to us. Lessons have to be learned.”

In the middle of January this year, Megan and Louise received confirmation from the MoJ that the documents had been sent out incorrectly, but they were only offered £50 for the distress it had caused.

In a further message, the MoJ also confirmed that documents received in the post room should be recorded and secured separately, while a spreadsheet of parental responsibility agreement documentation should be maintained.

Megan and Louise called on data breach legal specialists Hayes Connor for help.

The MoJ went on to admit liability and the case was settled, with the adults receiving £1,500 each and Aria also receiving £750.

Ryan Adamson, litigation executive at Hayes Connor who represented the family, said: “We put a lot of faith in organisations of all kinds when we pass on our personal information, but you would never think that something like this would happen when dealing with the courts.

“Our clients were understandably very upset when this occurred and their case is yet another that highlights the impact that data breaches of this nature can have.

“While we were delighted to help them secure a settlement, it is vital that this is not allowed to happen again.”

Hayes Connor was one of the first law firms in the UK to specialise in data protection law and data breach claims and has one of the largest teams of data breach experts in the country.

A spokesperson for HM Courts and Tribunals Service said: “We handle millions of pieces of sensitive data safely and securely every year and apologise for any distress caused on this rare occasion.”

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