What happens next for the Princess of Wales following alleged data breach?

ITV News' Royal Editor Chris Ship has the latest on the Princess of Wales and the Queen's trip to Belfast

An investigation is underway into whether the Princess of Wales' private medical records have become the subject of an attempted data breach.

Following abdominal surgery in January, Kate Middleton has been at the forefront of online conspiracy surrounding her health and whereabouts.

Speculation then deepened following the release of a family photo for Mother's Day, which lead to questions over the princess' digital editing skills and the photograph's authenticity.

On Saturday, she was spotted for the first time since her surgery, walking alongside her husband, Prince William.

But this week, the Princess of Wales has made it onto the front pages once again. This time for the alleged breach of her private medical records - so what is the latest challenge the Princess of Wales is currently facing?

What has happened to Kate's medical records?

At the London Clinic, where Kate had planned abdominal surgery in January, unauthorised staff have allegedly attempted to gain access to her confidential medical records, ITV News understands.

Three members of staff at the hospital are now being investigated for the alleged breach.

Both the wife to the heir of the throne and the King himself were being treated at the private hospital at the start of the year.

Has the Princess of Wales responded?

Not as of yet. Kensington Palace has also declined to comment, other than saying: “This is a matter for The London Clinic.”

Kate has been made aware of the potential data breach as patients are always informed if there are any suspicions that their private medical records have been accessed or shared in an unauthorised manner.

Can anyone access my medical records without permission?

No. Under the Data Protection Act 2018, it is an offence to obtain or disclose personal data without the consent of the data controller.

Consequently, it is illegal to access someone else's medical records without permission from that individual.

Who is investigating these allegations?

The UK's data watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), has launched an investigation into the alleged data breach.

In a statement, the ICO said: “We can confirm that we have received a breach report and are assessing the information provided.”

The ICO did not say whether the 'breach report' contained just one or more allegations.

What do the ICO do?

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is an independent watchdog, set up to uphold information rights.

Just last year alone, the body dealt with almost 40,000 complaints about data protection, with more than 300,000 calls made to its helpline.

An organisation is required to report misuse of personal data to the ICO, if there is a risk to the rights and freedoms of a person which is often the case with sensitive medical information.

Such requests must be made within 72 hours of being made aware of a breach.

This is the Royal Rota - our weekly podcast about the royal family, with ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship and Producer Lizzie Robinson.

What powers does the ICO have?

The watchdog can carry out criminal investigations and is able to prosecute individuals where it believes an offence may have been committed. They can fine the person responsible in court.

Usually, an assessment of the breach report will be carried out by its Criminal Investigation Team. They will then decide whether to proceed in accordance with the Regulatory Action Policy.

These decisions include looking at whether there is sufficient evidence to support a prosecution and whether it is in the public interest to do so.

Are the Metropolitan Police investigating the alleged breach?

Health minister and former nurse Maria Caulfield has said police have “been asked to look at” the allegations, however, when ITV News contacted the Met, they said "they were not aware of any referral at this time".

Has the hospital said anything about the allegations?

The London Clinic have said that any of its staff who had attempted to access patient information would face “all appropriate investigatory, regulatory and disciplinary steps".

The hospital's chief executive, Al Russell, added: “There is no place at our hospital for those who intentionally breach the trust of any of our patients or colleagues."

Can the princess also take action?

Yes. Kate has the option of bringing a private prosecution with a civil action and also potentially claiming compensation.

Kensington Palace have also declined to comment on whether this was likely.

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