Jail threat will stop secrets trade, says info chief

The threat of jail sentences will deter journalists from buying secret information, the deputy Information Commissioner has claimed.

The Government is currently consulting over possible two-year jail terms for those who illegally buy and sell secret information.

Currently journalists only face the threat of a fine if they buy information such as phone records and private phone numbers.

Deputy information commissioner David Smith said: "The prison sentence is a deterrent, and is intended as such… the threat of prison is seen as a much greater deterrent than facing a fine.

"I am sure people like private investigators and journalists will write [a fine] off as a business expense: you can't write off a prison sentence in the same way."

He added: "We will not see many journalists or private investigators going to prison."

Previous legislation guarding the data protection act has been a maximum fine of £5,000, whereas the punishment will now extend to a maximum of two years imprisonment.

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