Gone are the days where it was almost impossible to find out what sort of information official bodies held about us. Data Protection legislation, which has recently been superseded by the GDPR, allows us to request that companies send us the information which is held about us in paper records or on computer, and also gives us the right to have any mistakes on that information corrected. Many of us have requested our credit records from the main checking agencies, or asked the GP for access to our medical records. But how do you go about searching your Police records, and do you even have the legal right to do so?
The organisation which looks after Police records in the UK is ACRO, the Criminal Records Office. They are the body which governs the information held on the Police National Computer, which is used by most police forces across the UK. The one exception to this is for people living in Northern Ireland, which operates a separate system. The same right to ask for access to your Police records exists in Northern Ireland, but you’ll need to deal with AccessNI rather than with ACRO.
Applying to see your Records
ACRO does not charge to access the information – if any – which is held about you on the Police computer system. It usually takes around a month to perform the searches and report back to you. The easiest way of applying for access to your records is to go to the ACRO website and fill in the subject access form. You’ll also need to provide some formal identification such as your passport and driving licence which is a security measure to make sure you can only get access to your own record on the police computer, not anyone else’s. If you have any questions or aren’t sure how the process applies in your case, you can give them a ring, or email any enquiries before submitting your form.
ACRO is a UK only system, which will only hold information about incidents or crimes which occurred in the UK. There isn’t a worldwide Police computer system, so information about crimes overseas won’t be shown. It’s also worth pointing out that this sort of access to police records isn’t the same as a Disclosure and can’t be used as a substitute for going through the Disclosure and Barring Service. The Police also has the right to withhold information on your record in certain circumstances. This could be in order to prevent crime, or in interests of national security. A subject access report will show details about convictions and cautions which you have received, whether they are considered spent or not, and details of any times when you were arrested by then released without charge.
If you receive an ACRO subject access containing incorrect information, this is usually easy to correct. It might involve a visit to the police station to give your fingerprints, which are then compared to the fingerprints taken at the time of the crime. If there’s no match, your record will be amended.
For a Basic DBS Check, apply here.