David J. Farley of Plympton, Plymouth, United Kingdom

David J. Farley of Plympton, Plymouth, United Kingdom

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Police win data deletion appeal

My thanks to my former colleague Andy Pierce for drawing my attention to this news report and I must say that I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments as follows; A sensible decision by the Court of Appeal which must leave some like me, who constantly and consistenly argued the toss with the Data Protection / Freedom of Information lobby, feeling quite smug.

The rules state information must be relevant, up to date and not excessive
Five police forces which challenged a ruling that they should delete records on criminal convictions from their database have won their appeal.

The court of appeal said convictions, however old and however minor, can be of value in the fight against crime.

The court said that as a result the retention of that information should not be denied to the police.

The forces said if they had lost, they may have been forced to delete details of as many as one million people.

The police added if the original ruling had been upheld, the result would have been a "liars' charter" - where people would be able to deny criminal convictions on job applications if they knew the deletion deadline had passed.

'However old or minor'

Three judges ruled that retaining information was far easier to justify than actually disclosing the information to others.

"If the police say rationally and reasonably that convictions, however old or minor, have a value in the work that they do, that should, in effect, be the end of the matter," said Lord Justice Waller, sitting with Lord Justices Carnwath and Hughes.

The appeal was made by the chief constables of the Humberside, Staffordshire, Northumbria, West Midlands and Greater Manchester forces.

"This data assists police officers in their work in preventing crime and protecting the public" Quote from ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers.

The five convicted people who had contested the case were refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) welcomed the ruling, adding that "the ramifications of losing the appeal were potentially huge".

Ian Readhead, Acpo director of information, told the BBC: "This data assists police officers in their work in preventing crime and protecting the public and the loss of such valuable information would have been detrimental to that.

"Although principally used for police purposes, these records are also critical to the courts, the Criminal Records Bureau, the Independent Safeguarding Agency, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office, who all supported this appeal."

But Anna Fairclough, a lawyer for the civil rights group Liberty, said the judgement "forgets the privacy rights of millions of people".

She said: "Exceptions to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and the net of employment vetting are being cast so wide that people will be forever haunted by the minor indiscretions of their youth.

"We need a tighter rein on the circumstances when spent convictions can be disclosed."

Held for 100 years

The original ruling came about after five people complained to the information commissioner because their criminal records showed up when they applied for jobs.

One of the cases was a record held by Humberside Police about the theft of a 99p packet of meat in 1984. The person involved, who was under 18 at the time, was fined £15.

Another, held by West Midlands Police, referred to a theft which took place more than 25 years ago, for which the individual was fined £25.

And a third, held by Staffordshire Police, related to someone under 14 who was cautioned for a minor assault.

Under current policy, criminal records remain on the police national computer for up to 100 years.

Information courtesy of http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8314032.stm


Annette said...

I have pondered over this for a couple of days, because I have some unanswered questions here.
Would it be automatically deleted after a certain time?
Who would decide on this?
I feel that for some it should be deleted, for instance, the three examples you show us,it just proves that sometimes young children will commit a crime but it is a one off.
It was just a silly childhood crime and they shouldn't be paying for it now after all this time.
They did it and they paid for it.
As for when it should be deleted, I am not sure.
5-10 years later?
Obviously for more serious crimes,murder, rape etc, then, yes, that has got to be kept on record.
But for a one off like those???
I know you will say how do we know it's a one off, but if they haven't committed any more crimes by 5-10 years later, surely that proves my point. So, Should it be kept and for 100 years???
Thats a very long time!

Old Plod said...

Dear Annette,
Thank you for your continued interest in my blog. I really appreciate your support.

As regards the Court of Appeal decision concerning the Data Protection Act. I fully understand your concerns as expressed in your latest posting. However; I would clarify that it is not the intention of the police to disclose to outside bodies or institutions details of old convctions as they are already prevented from doing so under the terms of "Spent Convictions" legislation which sets time limits for certain convictions to remain citable which would cover the situations you describe as regards the Rehabilation of Offenders who may be seeking employment, etc in the future.

The difference is that the police themselves feel that they have a right to know if anyone has come to their notice before however long ago that may be. It is called intelligence gathering. It is purely for police eyes only. The importance of this aspect was well illustrated in the case of the child killer Ian Huntley. Had his much earlier misdemeanors been known on a national police database it is highly probable he would not have been given the job of caretaker at the Soham school and Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells might still be alive today.
I hope this clears up why I support the decision of the Court of Appeal Judges.
Warmest Good Wishes, David.

Annette said...

Thankyou for that David.
It has explained a lot of things I wasn't so sure of.
Thanks agin.