It’s among every woman’s worst nightmares – being stalked online by a stranger.
But for one mum who visited Edinburgh Royal Infirmary Accident and Emergency after suffering a hand injury in November 2011, the nightmare came true.
The woman, whose identity has not been released, was contacted five times over Facebook by James Byrne, a cleaner employed by Consort, who had spied on her while she was being treated. It is understood he then used a hospital computer to access a nurses’ floorplan to find out her personal details.
Byrne, of Dalkeith, denied breaching the Data Protection Act when he appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Tuesday, but his defence was not accepted.
The 23-year-old was allowed to walk free from court after being admonished and dismissed by Sheriff George Corke after being found guilty.
A source who was present in court said: “He should at least have been given community service or a fine. This just isn’t good enough and if I had been the victim I would be very angry. It must have been very frightening for her.”
Byrne first contacted the woman the day after she had been at the hospital, sending her a Facebook friend request with a message reading: “If you’re wondering who I am, I was checking you out yesterday ..ha how’s the hand?” When she asked him to clarify who he was, he replied: “I work in a&e, just thought you were nice!”
After the woman lodged an official complaint he contacted her again, asking her not to pursue the matter further as he didn’t want to lose his job before Christmas.
The horrified patient, who has two young sons, said at the time: “It’s just wrong in so many ways. I’ve been told by the police I’m not allowed to go out by myself, or go out when it’s dark. The hospital should have better data-protection measures in place. How was he able to get to the computer?”
Margaret Watt from the Scottish Patients Association hit out at the court decision, saying: “It’s absolutely shocking that he would be able to access a patient’s records, track them down, and make a nuisance of himself. I simply cannot understand why he would have been let away with this.”
A spokesman for Consort said Byrne had been suspended when the charges came to light, and sacked after being found guilty.
Alison McCallum, Director of Public Health and Health Policy at NHS Lothian, said they take “patient confidentiality extremely seriously”.
She added: “We conducted a full review of our confidential patient record and monitoring system and found that our systems were not breached by this individual and he did not have access to private medical records. We have also made additional safeguards.”
Byrne did not wish to comment when approached by the Evening News.