Letter: Laying down the law on data protection

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From Mr David Anson

Sir: I must take exception to comments raised by Liz Parratt in her letter today (27 May) suggesting that the police are exempt from the Data Protection Principle One requiring that users obtain and process data fairly and lawfully. The police have to abide by every one of the data protection principles and have to be able to show to the Data Protection Registrar that this is being done. Much training is given to police officers to ensure that this is the case and there are numerous checks to ensure that Principle One is rigidly applied.

What Ms Parratt is probably objecting to is that the police have an exemption from disclosing to a Data Subject (a living individual) information which is kept on certain specified systems. The only systems that are covered by this exemption are in relation to computerised intelligence records. I would hope that any reasonable law-abiding person would understand this exemption just as every criminal would wish it was not there.

The Registrar has the power to carry out checks on this and the power to remove the exemption if he is not happy that the system is being operated within the Principles of Data Protection, as well as levying an unlimited fine.

Yours faithfully,




27 May