Government Data Breach – How To Make A Claim

In this guide we explore what steps to take should a government data breach occur. A data breach is a security incident. It impacts the confidentiality, availability or integrity of your personal information. 

government data breach

Government data breach guide

We look at the legislation that guides data protection in the UK. In addition, we explore what you need to prove to make a data breach compensation claim. 

The government may hold your personal details as well as more sensitive data. We explore what steps they could take to protect your information. In addition, we look at how human error could lead to data breaches. 

Should you have evidence, you might like to make a data breach claim. We explore material and non-material damages and the precedent ruling that means you could claim for your emotional distress without experiencing financial loss. 

Lastly, if you decide to go forward with a claim, you might find the process easier with a solicitor. We explore No Win No Fee arrangements and why a No Win No Fee solicitor could support your claim. 

Our advisors are here to answer your data breach questions. You can get in touch 24 hours per day, seven days per week for free legal advice. 

To get in touch:

Select A Section

  1. What Is A UK Government Data Breach?
  2. Types Of Local And Central Government Data Breach
  3. Are You Eligible To Make A Data Breach Claim
  4. How Should Government Departments Or Bodies Have Breached Your Data Privacy?
  5. Government Data Breach Compensation Calculator
  6. Get Help With A Data Breach Claim

What Is A UK Government Data Breach?

Two key pieces of legislation protect your personal data. These are the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018

The UK’s data protection laws give you more rights over your personal data under the UK’s data protection laws. If personal data is leaked due to a lack of adherence to legislation, the data controller is held responsible. The data controller is typically an organisation responsible for deciding the purpose and means of processing personal information. 

Article 82 of the UK GDPR gives you the right to compensation should you suffer due to a breach. We will explore further eligibility for data breach compensation further into this guide. 

Contact our advisors to learn about the next steps should you experience a government data breach. 

Types Of Local And Central Government Data Breach

The government may hold various types of data about you. This could include information that is more sensitive in nature. Extra protection is also given to special category data.  When we log into a government website or use a government service, we expect our personal information to be secure. 

Human error causes a lot of data breaches. Ensuring staff receive data protection training, and also ensuring it is regularly updated is one way to avoid data breaches. 

Public sector data breach causes could include:

  • Phishing and cyber scams. Inform staff of the latest cyber scams. Also, they should regularly have training about spotting phishing attempts. 
  • Poor administrative processes. Lost or stolen devices and paperwork could also result in data breaches. Devices and any paper files should be kept secure, for example, ensuring filing cabinets are locked. 
  • Sending to someone without authorisation. Emailing, posting or faxing personal data to the wrong recipient where the person who receives it is not authorised to view the information. 

Examples Of Government Data Breaches

Protecting the public’s personal data is the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). In 2021, the ICO fined the Cabinet Office £500,000 for breaching data protection legislation. The fine was issued for disclosing the names and unredacted addresses of the 2020 New Years Honours list. The incident included publishing the names and addresses of over 1,000 recipients to  It occurred on 27 December 2019.

Call our advisors if you want a data breach claim personally assessed. 

Are You Eligible To Make A Data Breach Claim

If your personal information were to be leaked in a government data breach, you might want to know about claim eligibility. 

To make a claim, you need to:

  • Prove the data controller failed to adhere to data protection laws.
  • Your personal data was involved. 
  • You experienced harm as a result. 

The data controller should inform you without undue delay if your personal data was involved in a data breach. 

Contact our advisors to learn more about what you could submit as evidence in a claim. 

How Should Government Departments Or Bodies Have Protected Your Data Privacy?

Organisations can ensure staff are trained in data protection to help avoid human error data breaches. Government bodies hold a lot of personal information, this also could include special category data. 

In a data breach, your personal data could fall into the wrong hands. This could result in distress and it might cause financial harm.  

There are steps organisations could take to reduce the risk of data breaches. These could include:

  • Staff training. Give appropriate training to staff members with access to personal data. 
  • Reduce access. Not every staff member requires access to every piece of information about a particular data subject. 
  • Software updates. Keeping up-to-date with all the latest security fixes makes software more difficult to hack. 

Contact our advisors to discuss your next steps if your personal data was included in a government data breach. 

Government Data Breach Compensation Calculator

As already discussed in this guide, you can claim GDPR data breach compensation if your information were to be involved in a government data breach. You can claim for material damages and non-material damages. We discuss each in further detail below. 

Material Damages

Your financial details could be exposed in a government data breach. Criminals could then use these details to take out a credit card in your name, for example. You could recover financial losses under material damages. You could use past bank statements as evidence. 

Non-material Damages

The Vidal-Hall v. Google Inc (2015) Court of Appeal ruling set a non-material damages precedent. Prior to this case, you could only claim for your psychological injury if you had experienced material damages. However, you can now claim for your emotional distress even without experiencing financial. 

If you are claiming non-material damages, however, an independent medical assessment might be required. This allows for a fuller understanding of your psychiatric harm and what impact it could have on your life. 

When accessing the value of personal injury claims, legal professionals use the Judicial College Guidelines (JCG). The JCG contains a list of injuries alongside their potential compensation brackets. Included within the document are psychological injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Data breach lawyers will also use the listed psychological injuries and PTSD potential amounts to help assign value to your claim. 

We include examples from the JCG 16th edition, released in April 2022 in the table below. 

Injury Potential Compensation Notes
Severe psychological harm (a) £54,830 to £115,730 Severe psychiatric damage will impact a claimant’s ability to cope with life and relationships. At the severe level, it has a very poor prognosis.
Moderately severe psychological harm (b) £19,070 to £54,830 A mental injury on this level causes significant problems coping with life and relationships, but it comes with an optimistic prognosis.
Moderate psychological harm (c) £5,860 to £19,070 Problems coping with life and relationships improve and the prognosis is good.
Less severe psychological harm (d) £1,540 to £5,860 There’s a period of disability impacting daily life and sleep.
Severe anxiety from trauma (a) £59,860 to £100,670 Claimants will experience a permanent inability to function at pre-trauma levels with a bad impact on all areas of life.
Moderately severe anxiety from trauma (b) £23,150 to £59,860 The claimant may experience some recovery with professional help but there remains a significant disability for the foreseeable future.
Moderate anxiety from trauma (c) £8,180 to £23,150 The claimant may continue to experience some symptoms that are not grossly disabling, but a recovery has largely taken place.
Less severe anxiety from trauma (d) £3,950 to £8,180 Minor symptoms may be experienced beyond 1-2 years but there’s been virtually a full recovery.

Our advisors can answer any questions you have about damages in data breach claims. 

Get Help With A Data Breach Claim

If you decide to make a government data breach claim, hiring a solicitor could ensure your claim is filed in full.  Once settled, a claim cannot be reopened, even if new damages come to light. 

A No Win No Fee solicitor could provide their services using a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA). You won’t be charged an upfront solicitors fee with a CFA. A success fee will be taken from the awards of successful claims instead. Legal caps apply. You won’t pay a success fee if your claim is unsuccessful. 

Our advisors can answer any questions regarding data breach claims. They can provide free legal advice. If your claim seems eligible it could be passed to our solicitors. 

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Related Government Data Breach Claims

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For more information on how a government data breach could occur, speak with an advisor today.

Guide by DB

Edited by FS