Publication schemes: police sector monitoring report

The Information Commissioner’s Office have published a monitoring report on publication schemes in the police sector. This follows a monitoring report on central government published in November 2009. The report’s summary states:

The results were mixed. Most disappointingly we found that 26 out of the 90 authorities (approximately 30%) did not appear to be operating an approved publication scheme which s.19 of the Freedom of Information Act requires them to do. This is despite the two sectoral representative bodies, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Association of Chief Police Authorities (APA) putting a great deal of work into helping their members meet their FOI obligations. Despite us contacting the public authorities concerned, some are still not meeting their s.19 obligations and their details have been passed to our enforcement team.

Overall most of the public authorities inspected, and who we considered were operating an approved scheme, are releasing a large amount of information. However without exception what they are currently doing could be improved. 

We found authorities, while following the approved model, did not provide some of the information that we believed they should (and as set out in our “Definition Documents”). We also discovered that information which they said was available by contacting them either wasn’t, or there was considerable delay before it was, and websites were poorly maintained with out of date information and broken links.

The report also states that, in future, the ICO will recommend that all public authorities should produce a  ‘guide to information’ which lists the classes of information they’re making available.

It has become clear during this exercise that where authorities have produced a guide as a record of the information they make available routinely, then this is both the best way to keep track of what they are doing and it is straightforward for people to access information covered by the scheme.

As a result we will in future recommend that all public authorities follow this approach to producing their guide to information. This means that they should produce a guide which lists, by class, the information they are making accessible, how the information can be got and whether there are any charges.

This is a welcome development since some authorities claimed to have adopted the new model scheme without making clear what information they were making available or where it could be found.

ICO press release here and Police Sector Monitoring Report here.

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