KENT Police was one of a number of organisations called out by a government watchdog for causing people ‘anguish and distress’ after taking too long to respond to requests about information held on file.
The force has been warned by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that it now faces ‘very significant fines’ for repeated delays.
A subject access request (SAR) gives the public the right to ask what personal information is held about them and must be responded to within one to three months.
However, Kent Police was among seven organisations, including Government departments and local council bodies, that the ICO say have led to a ‘serious failure’ to meet the obligation.
Kent Police was reprimanded alongside the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Home Office, the London Borough of Croydon, the London Borough of Hackney, the London Borough of Lambeth and Virgin Media.
Information Commissioner John Edwards said: “These are really high volumes of non-compliance and they represent a lot of anguish and distress for people who have legitimate reasons for needing to access the personal information that is held about them by these organisations.
“The kinds of delays that people are experiencing are unjustifiable and need to be rectified.”
He said it is important that individuals know what information is obtained, how it is being used and if they can have it deleted, to ‘correct the power imbalance’ between them and the organisation.
The seven organisations have been reprimanded, meaning they are ‘publicly held to account’, forcing them to ‘sit up and take notice’ or face further action.
Mr Edwards continued: “[The organisations] would expect an increased level of interest from us, perhaps a deeper dive into their business, they might see further regulatory action in terms of enforcement notices, in terms of information notices, there could even be very significant fines.”
Kent Police said that was ‘committed to discharging its responsibilities under the Data Protection Act’ in a ‘timely way’ but added that Subject Access Requests had increased from 624 requests in 2019 to more than 1,300 in 2022 so far.
A spokesman added: “Following a significant increase in the number of SAR requests between 2019 and 2021, the force had already drawn up a comprehensive improvement plan which was ratified by chief officers and will include looking at ways to respond to Subject Access Requests in a more timely fashion.
“This will include streamlining current processes to improve response times and an increase in staff who deal with SAR requests.”