Prisoners’ Letters. ‘Where’s my data?’ M.D. – HMP Lindholme.

The following is a letter to insidetime, from issue January 2013

Where’s my data

From Michael Doyle – HMP Lindholme

The Data Access and Compliance Unit (DACU) is a complete joke. I’ve tried on a number of occasions to get my data. I’ve paid the £10 myself but they sent phone records etc. I then got my solicitor to pay the £10 and again they sent the phone records, money, visits, old complaints and an old OASys. In every application I’ve listed the specific data required but they never send it or say that the files don’t exist and that they have sent everything I’m entitled to.

Why do we have so much trouble getting our own data, we pay the £10 fee but still get fobbed off – it’s totally bang out of order.

 

Response from: John White – Prisoner Casework, NOMS

DACU are part of the Ministry of Justice Communications and Information Directorate. The team manage Self Assessment Reports (SARs) made by offenders or ex-offenders and their authorised representatives to Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMPS). SARs are requests that are made under the Data Protection Act 1998 by living individuals for details about the information a data controller holds on them. If the data controller (in these instances this is the Ministry of Justice which includes HMPS) does have this personal information, they are obliged to communicate this to the requestor in a form that they can understand.

The published list, referred to in an Inside Time article in September 2010 , was presented as being a correct and complete list of files or documents that would be in each and every offender’s Prison Service file. DACU however have no knowledge as to the origin of the list and were not contacted or made aware of the list before it was published, or whom, if anyone in the department was contacted to verify its accuracy. For example, the list incorrectly states that:

• All offender files will have security files and Security Intelligence Reports (SIRs). Such information, if it exists will be considered for disclosure but it is possible that some will be withheld under an exemption of the Act;
• Psychology shadow files exist and should be disclosed.
DACU have had confirmation that these files do not exist;
• IMR files and all medical data including test results and all communication with outside healthcare units and pathology labs should be disclosed.
MOJ are not responsible for medical records (i.e. not the data controller) and as such DACU cannot release them. Any requests should be made directly to the prison Healthcare department;
• Offender files could have video and audio recordings.

These materials can exist, however they are retained by prisons for a short period and as such they are considered for release if they are still available.

To make an SAR request, offenders should write to DACU giving enough detail so that they can be identified – this usually means providing full name (including any aliases), address, prison number and date of birth. A £10 fee is also required plus any letter of authority if they are making the request through a representative, and as much detail as possible should be given about the information that is being sought.

When DACU receive a valid SAR, the relevant prison(s) and headquarters units are contacted to gain copies of all the information requested. Once the information is received, DACU apply the DPA to each and every page of information. Each case received is treated individually and on a case by case basis. Detailed consideration and application of the DPA is made of all information provided against the rights of the requestor and other considerations; such as the exemptions under the Act.

Once this assessment has been made, DACU provide as much information as possible to the offender. This usually takes the form of hard copies of documents but can also include CCTV footage and recordings of telephone calls.

However not all of the information has to be released to the requestor under the DPA. For example, the Ministry of Justice does not have to release information relating to third parties unless it is reasonable to do so – in all the circumstances. Other more sensitive information such as that which has been gained for the purpose of prevention or detection of crime can be legitimately withheld from release if to release it would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime. In relation to offender files some security and intelligence information could fall within this exemption and would therefore not be released to the offender. In more rare occasions, information can be withheld under another exemption which relates to safeguarding national security. The DPA has a number of further exemptions which can apply in individual cases and result in information being withheld.

The Ministry of Justice takes its obligations under the DPA very seriously and in 2010 and 2011-12, the Information Commissioner’s Office conducted an audit and a further review of the processes in place to handle SARs. These audits concluded that the Ministry provided reasonable assurance that appropriate processes and procedures are in place and are being adhered to.

DACU will be happy to address any concerns or complaints that are brought to their attention, however, should requestors remain unsatisfied they can contact the Information Commissioner’s office who may decide to investigate the matter further. I understand that Mr Doyle and his representatives have received responses about the complaints and SARs that they submitted and have been advised to contact the Information Commissioner’s office if they remain unsatisfied with the replies to the SARs.

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~ by alexa8584 on January 10, 2013.

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