MoD, Kent Police and Home Office under fire

September 30, 2022


The Ministry of Defence, Kent Police and the Home Office have been accused of failing to respond to personal information requests.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) claims it is highlighting the issue for allegedly ignoring questions from the public.

Government departments repeatedly fail to deal with a ‘subject access request’ (SAR) within the defined three month deadline.

The ICO, an independent watchdog, aimes to promote openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

According to a BBC report, other organisations who did not respond to requests were Kent Police, Virgin Media and the London boroughs of Croydon, Hackney and Lambeth.

This has led to regulatory action including reprimands as well as practice recommendations issued under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Information Commissioner John Edwards told the BBC naming and shaming organisations that fail to comply is a new proactive way for the ICO to work.

“It’s going to become more common – it’s really important that people can have confidence in the administration of their information rights,” he said.

“That’s why we are publicly notifying these organisations that they have to bring themselves into compliance.

“Being able to ask an organisation ‘what information do you hold on me’ and ‘how it is being used’ provides transparency and accountability.

“These are fundamental rights – these are not optional.”

According to the BBC report the seven organisations were identified after complaints relating to failure to respond in breach of the UKGDPR and Data Protection Act.

One related to an asylum application involving a child.

The complainant said: “All we need is the asylum transcript so we can submit a humanitarian application. However, we can do nothing without those transcripts.

“I have chased this matter for seven months and have received nothing. My client’s child is constantly at risk so long as he stays in the home country.”

And one example given was about access to files for someone who spent many years in care.

“The original paper file was destroyed previously so I cannot access any of my personal data relating to my childhood,” the complainant said.

“The file contained sensitive details of trauma I suffered, and I feel now this emotional abuse cannot be answered for.”

The ICO said it took regulatory action over infringements across 2020 and 2021 including:

Ministry of Defence – 9,000 requests yet to be responded to with a year’s wait;

Home Office – failed to meet the deadline for responding to just under 21,000 requests leading to distress of those unable to get info;

Kent Police – some requests are reported to have taken over 18 months to issue a response;

Virgin Media – over a six-month period in 2021, 9,500 requests were made and 14% were not responded to;

The organisations have between three and six months to make improvements or further enforcement action could be taken.

A Government spokesman said: “We take our obligations under the Data Protection Act 2018 and UK General Data Protection Regulation very seriously, and we are working hard to remove delays to Subject Access requests identified by the Information Commissioner’s Office.”

A spokesman for the MOD added: “Action is being taken to remove those delays through a significant increase in resources, but in the meantime urgent applications are being prioritised.”
Kent Police told the BBC: “Kent Police is committed to discharging its responsibilities under the Data Protection Act and strives to ensure that all Subject Access Requests (SAR) are dealt with in a timely way.

“Recognising this as an area of business that needed improvement Kent Police requested that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) include a review of this area of business as part of the consensual audit which will be undertaken in early October 2022.”

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