Police authorities accused of Data Protection Act breach

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has received complaints against four police authorities who refuse to comply with the principles of the Data Protection Act.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has received complaints against four police authorities who refuse to comply with the principles of the Data Protection Act.

Humberside, Northumbria, Staffordshire and West Midlands police have all appealed against ICO orders to delete old criminal convictions from the Police National Computer (PNC), despite this being a principle enshrined in the Data Protection Act.

By appealing against the rulings, individuals claim the police are defying the law they are meant to uphold.

This is an important principle that must be upheld, says Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary, Nick Clegg. "The government [has] the biggest databases in the world without any meaningful public debate," he said. He hailed the information commissioner as "a lone voice seeking to protect British liberties".

Mick Gorrill, assistant commissioner for the ICO and a former police detective superintendent, said that each case had its own merit, but appeals would only be important in circumstances where the public interest was obviously under threat.

West Midlands Police is fighting to preserve a record of an attempted theft, which happened more than 25 years ago. Staffordshire Police has invested legal resources to preserve the record of a child cautioned for a minor assault. Police have said the record will not be removed until the child reaches her 100th birthday.

"There is no justification in terms of policing purposes for retaining the information," said Gorrill.




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