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Public Prosecution Service

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 19 June 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What happens to Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service's case papers once a case is concluded; what is the access policy on case papers over 30 years old; what papers have been transferred to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and when; and by what rules access to them or their index is restricted. [HL4014]

When a case is concluded, Public Prosecution Service (PPS) case papers are held in PPS storage in accordance with the PPS retention and disposal policy as agreed with the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland. Under this policy, files are destroyed after two years, 10 years or 20 years depending on the nature of the case and its seriousness. Some files are kept for longer periods where, for instance, life sentences have been imposed.

A file becomes an “historical record” in the meaning given to it by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 at the end of the period of 30 years beginning with the year following that in which it was created. Access to all such records is governed by the provisions of Part VI of that Act.

The Public Records Office holds a small number of miscellaneous, policy and practice files but, at the PRO's request, the PPS retains in its own custody individual case files.

The rules governing access to historical files are set out in the Freedom of Information Act and are applied by the Public Record Office.