Following a meeting in Parliament with the Police Federation, Theresa Villiers, MP for Barnet, has a joined a group of MPs calling for data protection reforms to ensure police can spend more time on the beat.
When the police send a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) they are currently required to check every item of personal information to establish whether it is necessary for the CPS to see it in order to decide whether to prosecute. If the police conclude that the information is not needed for a prosecution decision, it has to be blanked out.
This process of redacting personal data can be very time consuming. For example, take an incident attended by 10 police officers. As they arrive, they all turn on their body-worn cameras. They speak to a number of different people and film different aspects of the scene. They gather all sorts of other information, including CCTV and doorbell camera footage. They then have to consider each and every item of personal data when preparing the case for the CPS to consider, to decide whether the rules require it to be removed from the casefile.
It can take weeks to deal with just one incident, taking police away from the front line and placing significant pressure on resources. The Police Federation and the National Police Chiefs' Council estimate that the annual cost of redaction to the taxpayer is over £5.6 million. The police have to carry out this process even when they know there isn't a strong chance of the case being taken forward. About 25% of cases that are submitted to the CPS do not lead to charges being brought.
Theresa Villiers said "I know that my constituents really want the police to be out preventing crime and tracking down criminals, not stuck in front of computers blanking out personal data."
"A relatively small and straight-forward change in the law could free up millions of hours of police time."
"Alongside Conservative MP colleagues, I am calling for an amendment to the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill which would allow police forces and the CPS to share unredacted data with one another when making a charging decision. The data would then only need to be checked and redacted if the CPS decide to charge the suspect."
"I hope that Ministers will listen to this campaign for change because it would free up the police to get on with tackling the issues which really worry people living in Barnet, like burglary and antisocial behaviour."
Theresa and her colleagues have written to Sir John Whittingdale MP, the Minister in charge of the data protection legislation under consideration in Parliament, to raise this issue with him and call for an amendment to be tabled.
Digital imprint: Promoted by Theresa Villiers MP of 163 High Street, Barnet, EN5 5SU.