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Federation campaigns for Data Protection amendments

It is calling for a simplification of the disclosure redaction obligations that are currently placed on officers.

The Federation has called the Attorney General’s Review of Disclosure which made some changes that were brought in on July 25 “disappointing and inadequate”.

It said the review fails to recommend anything that will immediately mitigate the impact of disclosure.

In May, the government admitted that changes to pre-charge disclosure had created “digital Tipp-Ex units” within forces – wasting both time and resources.

Solicitor General Alex Chalk QC, said that one unit costs £1m to run and has officers and staff spending all their time pixelating body worn footage in order that it complies with disclosure and data protection rules.

The guidelines were initially introduced in December 2020 – and subsequently “tweaked” in July.

The changes mean there is also an added new requirement to justify the use of third party material – including social services reports. A written explanation will need to be included in the disclosure management document.

They do, however, also give a Redaction annex – which includes making it clear that BWV can be clipped or cropped, as well as allowing use of “password protections”.

Fed reps have already warned that the obligations are leading to investigators wanting to return to uniform roles.

Now, the Fed has said that although the review identifies some of the issues in the guidance – no immediate remedy is offered.

“It is also problematic that the review merely suggests that a single source of authoritative guidance for the redaction of case material passed to the CPS is “preferable” but does not demand it despite identifying an acute need for one,” it added.

Ben Hudson, Chair of the Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum and National Lead on the Impact of Revised CPS Guidance said: “Instead, it seeks to blame our members’ lack understanding about the vital role disclosure of case material plays in the criminal justice system. It puts the onus on police forces to make every effort to alter the current culture around disclosure procedures. 

“The review accepts that “strictly speaking” redaction and data protection are not direct aspects of CPS Disclosure Guidance. However, in absence of a uniform code and lack of specific guidance, police officers, investigative officers, detectives, and specialist disclosure experts are compelled to devote significant time and resources to the redaction of case material to ensure that data protection laws are adhered to, and personal information is not revealed, even between collaborating agencies.”

Mr Hudson has said that the remit of rebuttable presumption is too wide and that officers inadvertently end up redacting enormous volumes of case material.

The Fed has also asked for nationally agreed face-to-face training on disclosure procedures.

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