UK Liberty

Petty criminal records

Posted in database state, law and order by ukliberty on July 23, 2008

The Times:

Tens of thousands of criminal records could be deleted after a landmark ruling that police were breaking rules on the holding of personal details.

Tens of thousands is a guess, by the way.

Police reacted with dismay to a judgment by the Information Tribunal, which could force them to review millions of records of minor crimes.

The ruling [why don’t the newspapers link to these?!] opens the way for all those who have been convicted of a minor offence when young, and who have since remained out of trouble, to apply for their record to be removed from the Police National Computer.

This is important because some occupations require Criminal Records checks, and there is some nice detail in the judgement as to what that means in practice.

SP, for example, could not get a job as a carer because of a common assault conviction at 13. Incidentally, the police in that case had said that her record would be deleted by 18 provided she kept out of trouble.

Police privately cautioned last night that there were potentially much wider implications. “A crime may look very trivial, but it might still be of significance to a person’s potential behaviour,” a police source said.

They also said that the ruling might put an end to the wider collection of data, brought in after the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, Cambridgeshire, which was designed to increase the chances of catching criminals.

Oh, what rubbish. The point was that Ian Huntley, their murderer, had been investigated for sexual offences and burglary, and that Humberside Police shouldn’t have deleted information relating to those investigations (see the Bichard Inquiry). I really wish they would stop playing Pin the Tail on the Scapegoat, and just get on with it.

And such allegations hardly compare to a common assault committed at 13 [SP], stealing a packet of meat worth 99p at 16, or attempted theft (metal blanks inserted into arcade machine) and criminal damage at 15.

(see pages 16 onward of the judgement)

The point being this:

The tribunal ruled that in each of the cases the conviction information was irrelevant and excessive for the purposes for which it was held and had been retained for longer than necessary.

Also that sometimes the police don’t even consistently follow their own rules, and the different forces around England and Wales have their own ways of following the guidelines.

And the situation is rather odd in the sense of the law, as the ruling makes clear:

We note that the legal framework is permissive, not mandatory. Certain conviction information may be recorded in national police records; there is no statutory obligation to record conviction information, and nor is there an obligation to retain conviction information (either for any particular period, or indefinitely) once it has been recorded. Nor is the legislative framework comprehensive. Certain legal offences are not liable to imprisonment and are not specified in the Schedule to the Regulations, and hence they are not recordable. For instance, it is understood that the offences created by the DPA itself are at present not recordable. Therefore even if all recordable offences were recorded and retained indefinitely, the PNC would not be a comprehensive record of all criminal convictions.

In short it is police policy, not a Parliamentary decision, on what to store and what to get rid of. This doesn’t seem right.

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