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Criminal Records

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 11 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) whether the Data Protection Act 1998 prevents the Parole Board from putting information into the public domain on individual prisoners which might contribute to public protection; (146778)

(2) whether he has considered bringing forward changes to allow the Parole Board to put more information into the public domain for the protection of the public.

Where it is proposed to share information between public bodies, those bodies must always ensure that they have the power to share those data. Public bodies such as the Parole Board have the power under common law to divulge information for the purpose of public protection in certain circumstances. Therefore, no specific statutory power is required.

Once is it established that such a power exists, those involved in disclosure must ensure that the exercise of the power to disclose is consistent with the legal framework established by the Data Protection Act 1998 (“the DPA”).

The DPA does not automatically preclude the Parole Board sharing information on individual offenders with the police and probation services if that is necessary to enable those services to carry out their statutory responsibilities to protect the public. Whether disclosure for these purposes is consistent with the DPA will always depend on the individual circumstances of each case and whether the disclosure is truly necessary by reference to those facts.

Where sharing of data of the type mentioned above takes place, the police and probation services may, in turn, disclose the information to individuals under their own powers, if it is necessary for them to do so in order to manage the risks posed by offenders.

Taking all of the above into account, there are no proposals to amend legislation in respect of the disclosure of personal data as the current state of the law is sufficient to meet the requirements of public protection.