I have previously blogged about my client Julie who was arrested on suspicion of child neglect. She had been arrested at her children’s school, taken to a local Police Station, held in a cell for a couple of hours and then released with no further action to be taken.
When Julie first contacted me nearly 4 years later, her stated aim was for the deletion of her personal details from the Police National Computer.
The arrest had been her one and only lifetime interaction with the Police and had been traumatic in itself, but what continued to “torment” her was the existence of an entry on the PNC that would impact her negatively for the rest of her life, and in particular destroy any chance of resuming her former career as a Carer.
Julie established that the information held on the PNC included her full name, date of birth, ethnicity, place of birth, nationality, personal description (including eye colour, hair colour and style, dominant hand and whether she was visually impaired), address as at the time of arrest, occupation as at date of arrest and shockingly brief (and out-of-context) details of the arrest circumstances, specifically: “Assault/ill-treat/neglect/abandon a Child/young person to cause unnecessary suffering/injury“, as well as her photograph. Such a vague and generic summary of the alleged reason for Julie’s arrest, clearly left the door wide open for anyone reading it to assume the worst about her.
Julie was “horrified to discover that the wrongful arrest details and a mugshot … still existed, in spite of not having been charged with anything” and that this information/ misinformation could “be viewed by Police all over the country”.
She established following online research that it is possible to have personal data deleted from the PNC, but only if you are able to evidence good grounds for deletion.
Julie then applied direct to ACRO for the deletion of the PNC entry.
Julie’s stated grounds for deletion included the following;
- No Crime; I am not guilty of neglect. My son walked out on me. He told me to “fuck off “. He walked out and was gone overnight. He was 6 foot at the time. I was arrested the next day when I took my younger child to school.
- False allegation; I am not a neglectful parent. My son later admitted to police that he had lied. He admitted causing criminal damage to our home. He also admitted to having made unprovoked physical attacks on myself.
- Unlawful arrest; I believe that the arrest was not lawful because no crime was committed.
- Unlawfully taken; because no crime was committed, my photograph and or any other data should be removed/deleted/destroyed.
- Incorrect disposal; I was told that no further action will be taken. I should not of been arrested in the first place.
Julie went on to describe the impact of her data still being on the PNC:
- that she had suffered with anxiety/depression
- that she could not apply for jobs and
- had no future in her previous field of work as a Carer which required a fully enhanced DBS check.
In truth, ACRO is just a conduit, a postman if you like, and the body that reviews such applications is the Force who put the data on the PNC in the first place, ie the arresting force for they are the “data controllers” of the information.
A month later, ACRO advised that the Records Management Unit of the arresting force had considered the application. With a view to ensuring Julie’s privacy, I will not identify the Force, and so will simply replace the name of the force with “X” in the following transcription. This is what they said;
We “note that early deletion is requested by virtue of the following ground(s);
Mistaken identity/unlawful arrest
Suspect status not clear at the time of arrest
X Police review of this matter has now concluded and we must advise that X Police decision is that deletion by virtue of these grounds is REFUSED and the application cannot be upheld.
Each application submitted to X Police is judged by applying a stringent framework of the record deletion process. This means that to apply all, or even one, of the seven grounds quoted, X Police must identify corroborative evidence to support and subsequently approve early deletion.
Upon conclusion of our review X Police find there is insufficient evidence to support deletion based on the grounds, therefore [Julie’s] records will be retained.”
In the circumstances, ACRO confirmed that;
Julie’s record would be retained on the Police National Computer until she was deemed to have reached 100 years of age in accordance with current policy outlined in the guidance “Deletion of records for National Police Systems”;
the Force had decided to retain her custody image in accordance with the management of Police Information (MOPI) framework.
As is all too often the case, Julie’s application had been rejected without proper consideration of the facts of the case, her representations or the relevant criteria. Despite suggesting that ‘rationale’ would be provided, in fact, there was no rationale for the decision.
Julie asked me to assist in lodging an appeal.
On review of her case, I was of the opinion that her arrest had been entirely unlawful, and that to begin with, we should focus on a civil action against X Police for damages for false imprisonment and assault/battery; and then in due course we would address the PNC record. I explained that an admission of liability and/or payment of damages in a civil action would greatly strengthen her appeal for Record deletion.
Following the successful conclusion of Julie’s claim, i.e. the Police’s admission of liability for her wrongful arrest, and payment of damages, I wrote to ACRO demonstrating that the previous decision not to delete Julie’s PNC entry was perverse, and that in light of the outcome of the civil proceedings, this decision must be reversed.
I am pleased to confirm that following review, X Police agreed to delete the entry. Here’s what they said;
“We can confirm that a full review has been conducted independently from the initial decisionmaker, and in liaising with the legal services department and data protection office.
Upon completion of this assessment, X police support deletion of records held on the Police National Computer. Therefore this letter constitutes formal confirmation that all records have been deleted from the police national computer system in relation to this offence”.
By instructing me, Julie had successfully achieved her overriding objective, which was deletion of the PNC entry and custody photograph. But there was more, for she also now has the satisfaction of an admission that her arrest was unlawful, and she has recovered financial compensation to reflect her loss of liberty and the trauma and distress of this terrible incident.
Here’s what Julie has to say about her experience;
I am writing this reference regarding the AMAZING work that my solicitor (Lawyer) Mr Iain Gould recently did for me.
Firstly let me explain to you how I came into contact with Iain Gould; I was at the end of my rope due to having suffered in an extreme way due to a very deeply wrongful arrest. I was feeling absolutely tormented and in pieces………..The police had a deeply personal and negative impact upon my very existence and had changed and damaged my life for the worse forever……….
I turned to the internet, I was doing google search after google search desperately seeking actual, genuine, practical help. Eventually I discovered a page on a blog on wordpress which held a particular significance. This blog was written by Iain Gould and it stated that he is a solicitor (lawyer) who specialises in legal action against the police.
Having never in my 44 years had any previous arrests or convictions or anything, not so much as a single parking ticket I’d had absolutely no idea whatsoever and no clue as to WHOM would be able to help me.
The desperate googling that I was doing led me to the wordpress blog that solicitor (Lawyer) Iain Gould runs. I found an online form on his blog which I completed.
In response, I received an initial phone call from Iain Gould himself. I was deeply embarrassed by the information that I had to impart, however I did so and left nothing out. To my extreme joy and delight after considering whether I had a case or not I was then taken on as a client by Solicitor (Lawyer) Iain Gould.
I had never before in my life heard of something called The Police National Computer. Basically I was HORRIFIED to discover that the wrongful arrest details and a mugshot of myself STILL existed, in spite of not having been charged with anything alongside a pack of lies about myself on a computer system that may be viewed by police all over the country. Clearly that would further impact my life negatively for the rest of my life and destroy completely any potential career prospects. Not only was the “information” that they held about me untrue, it was also deeply damaging.
As a solicitor, Iain Gould listens to what you have to say and makes you feel that you ARE being both listened to and taken seriously as a client. He has a very fast ability to be able to extract relevant material to your case and cut through anything that is not relevant. As a client I was kept informed at all times of how the case was progressing and I did my best to try not to bombard my solicitor with emails.
I felt that to take legal action against the police is a terrifying prospect as a client with no legal knowledge myself and it is absolutely imperative to obtain a solicitor (Lawyer) who has got extensive experience and knowledge in this field. This is not an easy task due to the fact that many solicitors would hesitate to take on such a task and my guess would be that even fewer solicitors would be successful.
Police can and do get things very wrong at times and when they do so you would require a very specialist solicitor (Lawyer) to help you.
I am both amazed and delighted to state that my solicitor (Lawyer) Iain Gould was entirely successful in the legal action that he undertook for me against the police. My name has been legally cleared, and I hope that this should be the beginning of a new chapter of life for myself that I hope will actually BE a life full of possibilities as opposed to a mere existence.
If you are seeking a solicitor after having suffered at the hands of the police then I heartily recommend Iain Gould. He gets results and is efficient, professional and is basically pure gold!
Mr Iain Gould, you have my wholehearted gratitude forever.