Right to find out and be provided with information about you
Under the Laws of England and Wales there are various statutory instruments which enable you to have access to various forms of information that are held about you. The two pieces of legislation enabling you to do this are as follows:
The Freedom of Information Act 2000
The Data Protection Act 1998
The Data Protection Act provides individuals with the right to find out what personal information the UK Criminal Justice System might hold about them.
A request for personal information under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 is called a subject access request.
The Freedom of Information Act 2000
The Freedom of Information Act provides individuals with the right to ask for official information held by public authorities such as the police and other criminal justice organisations.
Subject access request under the Data Protection Act 1998
How do I organise a subject access request under the Data Protection Act?
If you wish to find out and obtain a copy of what information the police hold about you then you should contact the police directly with a request in writing. Often the police will have standard forms which you will need to complete in order to be provided with information about yourself. You can download these from police websites.
To which police force should I make my request for information?
An individual who wishes to be provided with information from the police concerning themselves should apply to their local police force. Each local police force will be able to access information which is held centrally on the police databases.
What else must I provide to the police before they will allow my request?
Once a request has been made in writing or once the correct form has been completed the following other information should be provided to the local police force:
Proof of your identity – the specific form of identification required will be detailed on the police application form
A payment of £10 – this is the maximum payment that can be requested and covers all kinds of information that can be requested
A photograph – this will only be necessary if the request relates to access to CCTV footage
The police will only fulfill your request once they have been provided with enough information which they reasonably need to identify you and find the specific information which you want.
Is there any other information which they may ask from me before providing me with the information?
What information will be required by the police to find the specific information you have requested will be detailed on the specific police application form which you will be required to complete.
General information they may ask you will relate to the following:
When you have been in contact with the police
For what reason you were in contact with the police
If you have previously lived in another part of the UK
This will enable them to know where to look and whether to contact other forces to be obtain the required information.
Will there be any reason for the police to refuse my request?
The police do not have to provide you with the exact information which you have requested. This is due to the various exemptions which can be found in the Data Protection Act 1998. For example the police do not have to release information under the Data Protection Act if this would be seen to be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime.
When would this usually be the case?
This would usually be the case where the information which you have requested relates to an investigation which is still open or ongoing.
Information relating to other people
In many cases the police will also be required to edit the information provided to you in order to remove information relating to other people.
How long will it take to receive the information?
The police are required to deal with the request in a prompt manner. Having received all the required information with which to identify you the information should be provided within 40 days.
What happens if I have not had been provided with the information or have not been provided with a response?
If you have not been provided with the information or have not had a response as to why you will not be getting the information you can write to the Information Commissioner (the Regulatory Body for data protection issues) providing them with all details of the case.
Are there any other Criminal Justice organisations which may hold information about me?
Under the Data Protection Act you can also contact the following other Criminal Justice organisations to be provided with information about yourself:
HM Prison Service
HM Court Service
Access to information under the Freedom of Information Act
Under the Freedom of Information Act you have a right to request official information concerning the Criminal Justice System which is held by public authorities. This includes UK police forces and prisons.
You may not in all cases, however, be provided with the exact information which you request.
How long does the public authority have to respond?
The public authority has 20 working days to respond to your request.
What happens if they do not respond during this time?
If the public authority does not respond during this time an individual can ask them for an internal review. If following the internal review an individual is still not satisfied they can make a complaint to the Information Commissioner.
Information previously released
Information from Criminal Justice organisations such as UK police forces and the prison system has in some cases already been released under the Freedom of Information Act and in relation to other requests. This information is provided on their specific websites. It is good practice to check this before making a request to the organisation.