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  • Escaped prisoners’ data protection row

    Posted on July 6th, 2009 admin No comments

    Jack Straw's department left to struggle with Data Protection issues.

    The following story relating to the Department of Justice made me smile. It seems that like many organisations they get in a real pickle over the Data Protection Act. It leaves us in the ridiculous position that it refuses to name escaped prisoners - even if it has publicly named them in press releases when they were jailed. It will be interesting to see what the MoJ will do when hit by a legal action from an unsuspecting member of the public attacked by one of these AWOL prisoners. Just for comparison purposes you can go to the MoJ’s disclosure log where you will find the names of the barristers who picked up the most cash while either defending or prosecuting our criminals - is there any logic there?

    Government officials are refusing to name prisoners who escape and go on the run - in case it breaches their human rights, it was revealed today.

    The Ministry of Justice turned down a request made under the Freedom of Information Act to name escaped criminals.

    The department said it would breach data protection rules to name the fugitives despite the police routinely issuing details and photographs of fugitives at the time they escape.

    The East Anglian Daily Times requested details of every prisoner to have absconded from Hollesley Bay open prison in Woodbridge, Suffolk, over a two year period.

    The newspaper was told 39 had left the prison between January 1, 2007 and March 31, 2009 and was given details of the crimes they had committed.

    But officials refused to name the fugitives, saying the information was exempt because it could breach the Data Protection Act.

    They also claimed releasing the information could prejudice police investigations.

    Critics condemned the decision. Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer said he would raise the matter with Justice Secretary Jack Straw.

    He said: ”It’s intolerable and entirely unacceptable. There is no sense in which a prisoner’s identity is a private matter.

    ”In my view he sacrifices that when he becomes a prisoner. This annoys me very much indeed. We have gone mad if this is what we are doing.”

    In a letter refusing the request, officials wrote: ”It is the general policy of the Ministry of Justice not to disclose, to a third party, personal information about another person.

    ”This is because the Ministry of Justice has obligations under the Data Protection Act and in law generally to protect this information.”

    Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve said: ”The Government is not obliged by the law on privacy to withhold the identity of fugitive prisoners, where it helps prevent crime or protect the public.

    ”The Justice Secretary must stop blaming his own legislation for his own lack of transparency - it only fuels public suspicion that he is really trying to avoid political embarrassment.”