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Police fight to retain 30 year old petty crime records

Appeal information commissioner's ruling

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Police will appeal against a ruling from the information commissioner to remove records, including on covering the theft of a 99p piece of meat.

Four police forces are to appeal against an order from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to delete old criminal convictions from the Police National Computer (PNC).

The ICO said after investigating complaints from four individuals, it issued enforcement notices to Humberside, Northumbria, Staffordshire and West Midlands police.

The police forces are appealing each case to the Information Tribunal, which means the information does not need to be deleted until after the outcome of the appeal is determined.

The ICO said it is concerned that the old conviction information in question is being held contrary to the principles of the Data Protection Act because it is no longer relevant and is excessive for policing purposes.

"Personal data processed for any purpose should be adequate, relevant and not excessive, and should not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose," it said.

One of the records, held by Humberside Police, is about the theft of a 99p packet of meat stolen in 1984 by someone under 18 years of age. The thief was fined £15.

Others include a record at West Midlands Police about an attempted theft which happened over 25 years ago, resulting in the individual being fined £25. Another at Staffordshire Police concerns a child under 14 years of age, who was cautioned for a minor assault. Although she was originally told that the information would be deleted when she was 18, she has now been told that the record will not be removed until she reaches her 100th birthday.

Mick Gorrill, assistant commissioner for the ICO and a former police detective superintendent, commented on 1 November 2007: "Each case relates to individuals who have been convicted or cautioned on on e occasion and have not been convicted of any other offences.

"Some of the incidents date back nearly 30 years. The offences were non-custodial and we believe there is no justification in terms of policing purposes for retaining the information.

"The retention of this conviction information is causing harm and distress to the individuals concerned. We are not satisfied that in these particular cases this information will be of any use for policing purposes."

Welcoming the original ruling by the ICO as a victory for common sense, Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary Nick Clegg MP said: "With the Government rolling out the biggest databases in the world without any meaningful public debate, the information commissioner is a lone voice seeking to protect British liberties.

"That is why he should be given more powers and more resources to stop officialdom poking into every nook and cranny of our lives."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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