The UK’s data watchdog has seized computers from two houses over the leaked CCTV footage of Matt Hancock kissing his aide.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is investigating how the images, which led to the dramatic resignation of the former health secretary, came to be published.
It said the EMCOR Group, which manages the security cameras at the health department, reported a data breach alleging the images were taken from the system without their or the department’s consent.
Investigators confirmed they raided two houses in the south of England on Thursday and seized ‘personal computer equipment and electronic devices’.
Hancock was forced to resign after The Sun published footage of him breaking his own social distancing rules by kissing aide Gina Coladangelo in his office.
The footage sent shockwaves through Westminster and sparked a furious public backlash, forcing the digraced minister, who is married with three children, to step down.
The Department of Health and Social Care previously said a CCTV camera was installed in Hancock’s office as part of renovations in 2017 – but the minister was said to be unaware of it.
The leak prompted security concerns in Whitehall and new health secretary Sajid Javid said the camera has now been switched off.
The ICO said the alleged breach falls under Section 170 of the Data Protection Act 2018 – however, it does include the defence of ‘public interest’ under certain circumstances.
The footage was recorded on May 6, when guidance on social distancing was still in place and hugging between people from different households was not recommended.
Steve Eckersley, of the ICO, said: ‘It’s vital that all people, which includes the employees of government departments and members of the public who interact with them, have trust and confidence in the protection of their personal data.
‘In these circumstances, the ICO aims to react swiftly and effectively to investigate where there is a risk that other people may have unlawfully obtained personal data.
‘We have an ongoing investigation and will not be commenting further until it is concluded.’
How the footage was taken from the department’s internal CCTV system and made its way to the press is not clear.
The Sun’s editor, Victoria Newton, said the news desk had been contacted by ‘an angry whistle-blower’ on June 23, who ‘claimed to have irrefutable evidence that the married secretary of state for health was breaching his own lockdown rules by having an office affair with an aide’.
A reporter was sent out to watch the footage the following day and the story was published hours later.
Mr Hancock told the PM in a letter 24 hours later, that ministers ‘owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance’.
The repurcussions from the scandal are far from over, as the prime minister continues to face questions over why he did not sack Mr Hancock.
He was previously accused of ‘hitting a new low’ by Sir Keir Starmer, for dismissing the rule-breaking affair as a ‘Westminster bubble’ issue and highlighted the millions who had made ‘huge and very difficult’ sacrifices to follow the rules.
The Department of Health and Social Care itself is also being investigated by the ICO over ministers using private email addresses to conduct ministerial business during the pandemic.
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