The Daily Telegraph was hammering on about this today. The simple question
is this: Why does ACPO not use common sense?"
I have quoted the article coz I had to register to see it, and it;s truly
not worth the bother. By the way, WHY is my Date of Birth and my Gender
collected by the paper? It seems to be to be "Excessive" data!
The most senior police officers in the country condemned the Government's
Information Commissioner yesterday, accusing him of undermining the safety
of children by ordering the destruction of valuable criminal intelligence.
The Association of Chief Police Officers said Richard Thomas had demanded
that police forces delete convictions for violence and allegations of sexual
assault from computer and intelligence files in the interests of data
protection and civil liberties.
Acpo said the commissioner's repeated interventions in record-keeping showed
that he "clearly misunderstands" everyday police work. It had been "frankly
absurd" for him to claim after the Soham murders trial that he never
interfered with police record-keeping.
"He wants fewer offence details recorded on the police national computer,
not more," it said.
"The Police Service has clearly indicated that this would inhibit the safety
of vulnerable persons, children in particular, and the public in general."
Acpo's fierce attack was made in written evidence to the Bichard inquiry
into the failures in vetting that allowed Ian Huntley, the Soham murderer,
to become a school caretaker despite a long history of suspected sexual
After Huntley's conviction for the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica
Chapman, Humberside constabulary said it had deleted intelligence
information about him in
.xml> an effort to comply with the Data Protection Act.
Mr Thomas said in his inquiry submission, also published yesterday, that
Humberside's decision to delete intelligence "of such obvious value for the
prevention and detection of crime" was "astonishing".
He said: "There was nothing in the Data Protection Act, in the Acpo code or
in the guidance from my office from which Humberside police could reasonably
conclude that they were required to delete intelligence information on Ian
Huntley within a very short timescale.
"It appears that Humberside's approach to the weeding of criminal
intelligence records was out of step with the practice in most, if not all,
other police forces."
David Westwood, the Humberside chief constable, is to appear at the inquiry
next week. He will be relieved that Acpo has sprung to his defence. In its
submission, the association says that the commissioner intervenes in police
work "to the detriment of the Police Service in general and vulnerable
members of the community in particular".
It cites examples where the data protection watchdog has taken enforcement
action against police forces, demanding that they delete records from their
database. All these have occurred since the Soham murders in August 2002.
In one case, in July 2003, the commissioner demanded that South Yorkshire
police delete from a woman's record a juvenile conviction for actual bodily
harm dating from 1979. The commissioner's office said the woman could be
"harmed or embarrassed by the disclosure of information relating to a minor
offence many years ago".
Acpo said it strongly disputed the commissioner's view and said a conviction
for actual bodily harm "is not minor or irrelevant data . . . especially if
the individual is seeking employment with vulnerable persons or children".
In September 2003 a similar request was made of West Yorkshire police over a
man who wanted juvenile convictions that carried a three-month custodial
sentence to be "weeded out" of his record.
In a case with echoes of Huntley, the commissioner asked an unnamed police
force to delete intelligence relating to allegations that a man sexually
assaulted young males in 1991 and 1998.
The commissioner questioned the force's retention of the intelligence "if it
were only being held for employment vetting purposes".
Acpo retorted: "This statement clearly misunderstands the need to process
such information for the purposes of operational policing and the subsequent
requirement to prevent crime through the employment process."
The police chiefs were "surprised" at Mr Thomas's claim after the Soham
trial in December 2003 that his office did not give formal instructions or
directions to any police force about retaining information.
Their statement says: "All the evidence shows the Information Commissioner
to be very active and influential in this area. Any suggestion to the
contrary is, in our opinion, frankly absurd."
The statement calls on Sir Michael Bichard, the chairman of the inquiry, to
establish firm rules on record keeping and vetting.
It says that criminal records should be retained for the lifetime of the
individual and issues a call for the establishment of a national policy on
holding "non-conviction data".
The inquiry begins taking evidence tomorrow when James Eadie, the inquiry
counsel, makes his opening statement.
Tim Trent - Consultant
Direct: +44(0)1344 392644 Mobile:+44(0)7710 126618
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