The RPSCA will PNC you now

police-2Over the last few years we have highlighted various privacy concerns about a range of government databases, from the National DNA Database to the DVLA database. Our report in 2011 found how nearly 1,000 police officers had been disciplined for unlawful accessing information over a three year period. Violations of the Data Protection Act included running background checks on friends and potential partners and passing on sensitive information to criminal gangs and drug dealers.

Today The Register has revealed that the RSPCA is able to access information from the PNC, despite not having any formal prosecution powers and not being a statutory-organisation. The information handed over is subsequently going unaudited by the Association of Chief Police Officers Criminal Records Office (ACRO) – run by the Association of Chief Police Officers – who also charge for the access. This is despite the PNC User Manual specifically stipulating that auditing is required for organisations that have had access to ‘sensitive information’. If auditing is not being carried out, it is impossible to know whether the RSPCA are using the sensitive data under necessity and proportionately and if they are deleting it when their investigation has concluded.

The issue with the PNC is not merely about who has access to the information, but also about what kinds of information is being stored on it. Recently, a woman claimed that she has been harassed by police in High Wycombe after she ended a relationship with an officer. The woman has claimed that officers stopped her more than 70 times for suspected motoring offences including drink-driving and assault. Despite never being convicted of an offence, it has been claimed that officers filed a wealth of intelligence reports on her which have cost her three jobs after CRB checks were carried out.

There are three clear issues with the PNC as it stands. The first is that non-statutory bodies should not be able to gain access to information unless granted to do so by the courts. Secondly, if they are granted access to this information it is integral that they are then regularly audited to ensure that the information is being used, stored and deleted correctly. Thirdly, the databases should not be able to include any non-administrative information that has not been proven in court, unless there has been authorisation form a court to do so.

The RSPCA is not a part of the police service. It is not a criminal prosecutor. It is not a body established by Parliament to prosecute crimes. It should not have access to the Police National Computer, and nor should any other organisation of similar standing. If it wishes to see information held within it, it should go to court for a warrant.

Perhaps most illuminating of all, the Home Office confirmed to the Register – in response to this [PDF] information request – that it knows nothing about the legal basis of the agreement.  The Information Commissioner’s Office says it has never been challenged on the legality of the arrangement. Until now – we plan to file a complaint demanding the ICO investigates the lawful basis for this arrangement immediately, and orders the cessation of any third party sharing of PNC data until such a legal basis has been established.


  1. Chris Swan
    30th July 2013

    What are the chances that FACT also have this type of access?

  2. Alwyn Ladell
    31st July 2013

    I find this RSPCA access to police data outrageous (and suspect it may well be illegal). What is the Data Protection Registrar doing about it?

  3. Devils Advocate
    31st July 2013

    There are a number of holes in your argument which amount to misinformation and anecdote presented as fact. If you had read the PNC manual you would know such things

    “… it has been claimed that officers filed a wealth of intelligence
    reports on her which have cost her three jobs after CRB checks were
    carried out.”
    *The PNC does not contain intelligence – unless this lady was arrested for any of these offences there would be no record of it on PNC. If the events of this anecdote are in any way true, dragging PNC into the argument is unfair on PNC.

    “…the databases should not be able to include any non-administrative
    information that has not been proven in court, unless there has been
    authorisation form a court to do so”
    *As above – PNC is a record of fact and not an intelligence database, there are no personal opinions in PNC except perhaps descriptive information which is of course subjective to perception

  4. Anon
    31st July 2013

    Is this not just the tip of a very large iceberg? I suspect that many more organisations and individuals have access to PNC and other supposed sensitive or confidential data stores. It is not right but what is being done about it by those allowing it, those turning a blind eye to it and those (authorities) encouraging it? The Information Commissioner needs to stop this kind of stealth access to data by authorities. It is not for these authorities to make up the rules as they go along.

  5. ABC
    31st July 2013

    The RSPCA do bring criminal prosecutions to the courts and the animal welfare act 2006 give them powers with in the act.

    • Anon
      1st August 2013

      But does this entitle them to access the PNC or do any authorites that brings criminal prosecutions have access?

    • E-vigilante
      4th August 2013

      The AWA 2006 gave them no power to bring cases The legislation just covers the police and the councils.

    • Tim Greening-Jackson
      19th August 2013

      The RSPCA does not bring CRIMINAL prosecutions. It takes civil action. RSPCA “officers” are effectively the general public in costumes. They have no special powers in law.

  6. E-vigilante
    4th August 2013

    No RSPCA officer or employee has ever been subject to a Police check. either The police have given them immunity, without any concerns to the public.

    One of the top RSPCA employee is a convicted Armed Robber who was sentenced to 7 years for his crime. I believe he is working close to the Horsham head office

  7. Mary
    5th August 2013

    I worked with Victim Support for years. We would receive referrals via the PNC but never had any access to it directly. However a lot of the information on the PNC was incorrect, from phone numbers/date of birth to names being spelt wrong and in some cases wrong address. Even the police didn’t trust all the information on the damn thing….

  8. Gloworm
    20th August 2013

    When I had my criminal record “stood down” I was sent two A4 size documents listing
    the various bodies that was given access to the data. These included local parish councils, housing associations- in fact anybody and everybody!