ICO steps up action against Independent Police Complaints Commission over freedom of information requests

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has taken ‘enforcement action' against the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) after 69 freedom of information requests were not resolved within the necessary legal timeframe.

The ICO claimed that the IPCC has repeatedly failed to respond to requests in line with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after the ICO received a number of complaints about freedom of information requests that the IPCC had failed to respond to within the 20-day time limit.

The ICO said that it has issued an enforcement notice, which requires the IPCC to respond to requests that are overdue by 30th September 2010, either with the information requested or with a valid refusal notice. The IPCC is also required to resolve the cases referred to the ICO within 35 calendar days.

In a letter to the ICO, the IPCC confirmed that it was experiencing difficulties in responding to requests for information under FOIA due to an increase in the volume of requests.

Graham Smith, deputy commissioner at the ICO, said: “I am concerned that the IPCC has denied people access to information by repeatedly failing to respond to requests in line with the Act. This enforcement notice serves as a strong signal to all public authorities that failure to respond is unacceptable.

“I am pleased that the IPCC reported the difficulties it was facing to us and hope that it will treat this notice with the urgency it requires by putting in place the necessary steps to answer all FOI requests in compliance with the act.”

However, speaking to SC Magazine, Stonewood CEO Chris McIntosh claimed that the ICO has once again missed an opportunity to show how powerful it can be, particularly against an independent body.

He said: “It has got to go past that stage and show some teeth as perception is everything. If the ICO decides to just not issue a fine then people will continue to not take notice and lose things.”

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