The risk of personal data contained on a USB stick of child sex abuse survivors of Waterford sports coach, Bill Kenneally, being accessed by unauthorised parties was considered “low”, according to the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee
The loss of the device by the Hickson Commission, which is examining allegations of sex abuse by former sports coach, Bill Kenneally, was one of 130 data protection breaches involving sensitive information reported by the Department of Justice last year.
The encrypted device was lost in transit between two Department of Justice buildings located at Hanover Street and Haddington Road – a distance of around 1.5km.
Kenneally (69) of Summerville Avenue, Waterford was sentenced to 14 years in prison at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court in February 2016 after pleading guilty to 10 sample counts of indecently assaulting 10 boys at various locations in Waterford in the 1980s.
In response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin’s justice spokesperson, Martin Kenny, Ms McEntee said Department of Justice officials notified the Data Protection Commission about the loss of the USB stick as required under legislation after becoming aware of the issue.
The minister said an investigation by the department’s own data protection officer found that the missing USB stick had not been located despite a thorough search of both premises.
An Post had also indicated that no USB stick had been identified by its staff at its recovery and reclaims unit.
“The risk to individuals whose personal data was on the USB stick was evaluated, as required by data protection legislation, and found to be low,” said Ms McEntee.
“Any third party finding the USB stick would be unable to access any information contained therein,” she added.
Ms McEntee continued: “In circumstances where the USB stick’s technical protection measures rendered the data unintelligible, there was no reason to notify the data subjects.”
The minister said the Data Protection Commission had closed its investigation into the breach in mid-2019.
Expressing regret for the upset and anger that the breach had caused, Ms McEntee also apologised for affected parties learning of the issue through the media.
The minister said she had written to survivors of Kenneally’s abuse to express her regret at how the issue was handled and to acknowledge that they should have been notified at the time that the breach had occurred as a matter of courtesy.
Ms McEntee said the data on the device was not lost as it had been uploaded to the Hickson Commission’s secure system prior to the stick being misplaced.