Home > Long Lost Relatives > The Police and Public Records

The Police and Public Records

By: Robin Mizell - Updated: 7 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Freedom Of Information Act Information

The Freedom of Information Act is effective throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland—and a very similar statute exists in Scotland. The Act requires any public body to disclose upon request the data you seek, as long as the information is not lawfully exempted. Requests for environmental information are also covered by the Environmental Information Regulations.

Police Publications

Police publications and records databases are rich data troves from which journalists regularly retrieve material they then analyse for patterns or newsworthy stories. You can follow their example. Individuals who come in contact with the police as the result of road accidents, crime, traffic violations, or neighbourhood complaints, often provide accurate information about themselves that can prove useful when you are tracing someone or conducting a background investigation. Businesses’ contracts with the police and other government bodies can also contain details of interest.

The police will not release information to you in violation of the Data Protection Act. You also cannot obtain information the police are lawfully permitted to withhold in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act. A legal exemption would apply if by withholding all or part of the data the police would prevent crime, protect an ongoing investigation, ensure the apprehension or prosecution of criminal offenders, or serve the interests of national security. When the information you want is exempted, the police will not even be able to confirm it exists. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t immediately recognise the possibility that records you request will be exempted from disclosure. You won’t have any way of knowing about many ongoing investigations or law enforcement policies.

Before submitting a request for public records, check to see if the information is already published. Look at the appropriate police agency’s website for routinely issued reports that might cover your topic. The Freedom of Information Act does not require the police to respond to a request for information that has already been made public. If necessary, you will be directed to the appropriate publication scheme. Police records of historical interest can sometimes be located at the National Archives. The website for the Office of Public Sector Information includes a search feature and can help you learn where to look for many types of government publications.

Contacting the Police Authority

The Association of Police Authorities website includes a map with links to each local police force. You can also type into an Internet search engine the phrase “Freedom of Information” + the name of your local police agency. Your search results will probably include a web page with instructions on how to submit your Freedom of Information request to the police authority.

You can simply write a letter or send email to the police agency you believe possesses the information you need. Explain what you want and include your name and address. However, if the agency uses a form designed specifically for Freedom of Information requests, the form will help you define your objective and is well worth using. Although you may prefer to write a letter, you won’t automatically think of all the relevant details the form will prompt you to provide. The specified form will clarify your inquiry and expedite the processing of your request. Remember to indicate whether you would like to obtain information in hard copy, in digital format, or by inspecting it in person at the police station.

Asking for the information about you that is held by a public authority such as a police agency is referred to as the assertion of your “right of subject access.” You must first provide the required proof of your identity when you make a request for subject access information. You cannot ask for this confidential data on behalf of someone else. A fee is charged for subject access applications, which can take several weeks to process. You’ll be able to learn if there is information about you on file with the police agency. You can obtain a copy of the records, an explanation of how the data is being used, and information about how and why it could be released to others.

Appeals

Advice about compliance with the Freedom of Information Act is provided on the Information Commissioner’s website. If the police or another public body withholds the information you ask for, you can file an appeal with the Information Commissioner.

If you’re dissatisfied with the result of your appeal to the Information Commissioner, then you can take your appeal to the Information Tribunal. There is no information tribunal in Scotland, where the ultimate decision on whether records can be released rests with the Scottish Information Commissioner.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Lucifer
    Re: How to Join MI6
    I wanna join you, , , iam a killing machine and willing to die in the battle field
    28 June 2020
  • Apola
    Re: How to Join MI6
    I certainly thought this would have at least any older people to leave a comment, but all I see is preteens being desperate to be an agent. Just…
    23 May 2020
  • riama
    Re: How to Join MI6
    I'm a 12 year old girl and have always been interested in joining SIS/MI6. I would like to find out what the GCSE requirements are so I can work…
    29 April 2020
  • Blinkers
    Re: How to Join MI6
    Joined the Cyprus army at the age of 18, i may bot be the smartest person in the room but my i can be very street smart. i feel like i could be at…
    24 April 2020
  • Dead
    Re: How to Join MI6
    I want to join MI6 please fams, don't have ID though.. Immortal on a good day, 5ft 500pounds speaks dog language, i have some people ide like to…
    4 February 2020
  • Fruits
    Re: How to Join MI6
    Hi im a 12 year old girl and i am really interested in MI6, Ive always wanted to join and be a spy doing secret missions.The thing that inspired me…
    27 December 2019
  • TomCallan
    Re: How to Join MI6
    Y’all aren’t the most perceptive people are you? First things first, you need to be at least 17 and a half to apply and have full British…
    22 September 2019
  • healer
    Re: How to Join MI6
    Hi Im healer and please take me I will do all the missions and I will always follow the orders please take me Thank you!
    11 August 2019
  • Black Mafia
    Re: How to Join MI6
    I'm 13 I live in Nigeria I've lived in the US and I want to join the MI6 so madly I spy on little people please give me the opportunity to work…
    10 August 2019
  • Gonaburst
    Re: How to Join MI6
    So i am a 12 year old girl and i really want to become part of the MI6 any time soon probably at the age of 14 however i dont know how to sigh up…
    2 July 2019