Our society is becoming increasingly more open with information, and most of us are aware that we can request to see our medical records, or check our credit records to make sure that the information which has been held on us is accurate. Most of this access to information is covered under the Data Protection Act, under a process called a subject access request. This right also extends to information which is held by the Police on the Police National Computer which isn’t just a record of convictions or arrests – it also contains intelligence information which the Police may act on at some point in the future, and details of witnesses or any traffic accidents you have been involved in.
Making an Access Request to the Police
Irrespective of where you have lived for most of your life, the subject access request must be made to the local Police force for your current address. Your local Police Force will be able to access information held by any other Police force in the UK. The application for access to your records should be put in writing, and you also send a cheque for £10 as a processing fee. Proof of identity should also be sent along with the application form and if you are requesting to see CCTV footage which the Police hold, you’ll also need to send a current photograph so you can be identified. Search online for the contact details for the Data Protection Officer at your local police force so ensure you send your application to the correct place.
Will They Send Everything?
The Police are protected under the Data Protection Act, and unlike other bodies such as credit reference agencies, do not have to release all the information they hold on you. One of the clauses in the Act says that Police do not have to release information which “would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime”. This is obviously a judgement call, and so it is entirely possible that you will not be sent all the information held on you if there is an ongoing investigation which could involve you or someone close to you as a suspect or witness. You will also not be sent any information which involves other people as you will only ever be sent information which is directly related to you.
Criminal Justice and Prison Records
In the UK the courts system and prisons operate independently from the Police Force, so if you have ever had dealings with court as a defendant or a witness or have either been in prison or have been employed by the prison service, you will have to made separate access requests to these organisations. The same process of writing a letter and sending the £10 fee applies.
If there is information on your records which is wrong, you have the right to have it corrected. Write to the Chief Constable, clearly stating what is wrong, and providing evidence to support your point of view.