Authorities need to examine use of DPA

Satchwell: ‘It’s a cultural problem’

Other authorities – not just the police – should examine the way they interpret the Data Protection Act in the wake of the scathing inquiry into the Soham murders, according to the Society of Editors.

Bob Satchwell, the Society’s executive director, has been campaigning against “inappropriate political correctness” since before the Soham murders.

He described Soham as an “accident waiting to happen” after the local press highlighted the way the Data Protection Act was being blamed by the police, who were withholding information.

Complaints from newspapers centred on a sudden drying-up of information from the police about crime and traffic accidents, which was blamed on the Data Protection Act.

Local authorities then began to deny the press access to school events, such as plays and sports days, claiming the Act required parents’ permission for pictures to be taken.

Satchwell said: “We’ve been warning about inappropriate political correctness for years. And that it would end in tears.

“Other authorities, not just the police, should examine what they are doing, schools and sports authorities.

“The Data Protection Act is there essentially to protect private records.

It is not there to stop people being reported on whether they have done bad things or, more particularly, if they have done good things.

“It is time someone got to grips with this and put some sense into the whole regime of data protection.”

Sir Michael Bichard’s inquiry into how murderer Ian Huntley got a job as a school caretaker criticised Humberside Police for failing to pass on records of a series of sex allegations made against him.

Humberside Police originally blamed the Act for not releasing informaton about Huntley, but later admitted there were operational reasons for the failure.

Satchwell added: “What the inquiry has shown is it’s a cultural problem about sharing information. It is the same cultural problem the media has come up against with the Data Protection Act being blamed when it is really a management problem.”

By Jon Slattery

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