Feeds

Home Office foot-dragging exposes ACPO to criticism

But talk of a rift is premature

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Relations between the Home Office and one of their favourite police organisations, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) may not be quite as tickety-boo as they should be.

Both sides strenuously deny any rift: but as senior politicians raise questions about the role of ACPO in setting public policy, any suggestion that the Home Office is using an unelected and unaccountable body as a figleaf for less popular policy announcements becomes that much more significant.

Speculation was set off last week, as police finally agreed to destroy DNA and other samples taken from Tory MP Damian Green in December 2008, in connection with allegations that he had conspired with a civil servant to breach the Official Secrets Act.

Also in that month, a European Court ruling in the case of Marper and S required the UK Government to come up with suggestions for a revision to its existing guidelines on the retention of intimate samples. As police forces experienced an increase in requests for destruction, guidance on the current legal position became more urgent – and this was provided by ACPO, in a letter to police forces in England and Wales in August.

El Reg appears to have ruffled feathers by suggesting that this letter was another example of "police deciding for themselves when and how to interpret the law".

Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty was more forthright, declaring ACPO guidance as clearly in breach of the human rights ruling, and going on record to say that "these decisions are not for ACPO".

However, a spokesman for ACPO stated: "The letter sent out simply restated the legal position which the government has advised to us." Talking to The Register, ACPO further confirmed that it had no intention at all of widening or changing the law. It was merely responding to a need for information.

This is correct, as far as it goes. However, it still leaves unanswered the question of why the guidance could not have been provided by the government departments that gave advice in the first place – especially as any more detailed questions on the state of the law need to be referred back to the Home Office anyway.

According to a Home Office spokesman: "Whether guidance was issued to police forces by central Government or by ACPO is irrelevant. The important thing is that relevant, appropriate and timely guidance was issued to chief police officers." The difference is that the substance of any guidance issued by the Home Office may be questioned in Parliament: guidance provided by ACPO cannot.

Off the record, a view has been expressed both within ACPO and by senior politicians that ACPO is taking flak for the Home Office's reluctance to stick its head above the parapet on this issue.

In June, the level of concern over ACPO’s quasi-official status became clear, as various Lords rose to support a motion by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Dormer. While the focus of the Baroness' amendment was on bringing ACPO within the remit of Freedom of Information legislation, speakers raised a wider range of concerns over the constitutional role of ACPO.

For now, the matter remains unresolved. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Bono: Apple will sort out monetising music where the labels failed
Remastered so hard it would be difficult or impossible to master it again
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.