Police must delete old data

An order from The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) issued to five UK police forces to delete old criminal conviction data has been upheld by the Information Tribunal.

In dismissing appeals by Humberside, Northumbria, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester and West Midlands Police, the Information Tribunal upheld the view of the ICO that the retention of old Police National Computer convictions data is in breach of the Data Protection Act.

The ICO ruled late last year that individual complaints about the retention of conviction data - some of which date back to minor teenage offences some 30 years ago - should be addressed and issued an order to the five forces to delete the records.

The five cases related to individuals who had been given a non-custodial conviction or cautioned on one occasion and had not subsequently been convicted of any other offences.

Mick Gorrill, ICO assistant commissioner and former detective superintendent, said the tribunal had issued a landmark ruling that would have wider implications for police forces around the country. "This is an important ruling and one that is likely to influence our handling of complaints in the future," he said.

"Those concerned were caused harm and distress by the retention of this data," he added.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) was unsurprisingly disappointed with decision, having appealed against the ICO order to the Information Tribunal.

Ian Readhead, Deputy Chief Constable of Hampshire Police and ACPO lead on Data Protection and Freedom of Information, said: "The Bichard Inquiry, which followed the tragedy of the Soham murders, recommended that forces should reconsider the way in which records are managed.

"It is now important that clear national guidelines are put in place so that forces take a consistent approach to the retention of criminal records."

Readhead added that ACPO will now discuss with the police service the implications of the tribunal's decision to decide on the most appropriate course of action.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.