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ICO imposes FoI enforcement order on Greater Manchester Police


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Freedom of Information Act document
Image source: Petrov 96

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued an enforcement notice to Greater Manchester Police (GMP) for repeated failures to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests.

It said that GMP currently has a backlog of 850 overdue requests. Of these, more than 800 are over six months old and 580 are over a year old. The oldest open request was submitted almost two and a half years prior to the issuing of the enforcement notice.

The notice follows the practice recommendation issued in February 2023 after the ICO’s routine monitoring showed that GMP was the most complained about police force for timeliness over the previous 12 months.

GMP told the ICO it wanted to clear the backlog by the end of 2024, but this was deemed unacceptable.

Urgent action

Phillip Angell, head of FoI casework at the ICO, said: “In issuing this enforcement notice today, we are demanding urgent action from Greater Manchester Police in responding to freedom of information requests.

“Greater Manchester Police has currently done little to address the response backlog.

“Whilst we recognise that an action plan has been put in place and some progress has been made to improve its timeliness since the issuing of the practice recommendation, we are not seeing the improvement both we and the public need to see at the pace we need to see it. Improved response times to incoming requests should not be made at the expense of clearing the existing backlog – they should go hand in hand.

“There is nothing more important than the police maintaining the trust and understanding of the public, but this is not the way to earn that trust. Transparency is key, and compliance with freedom of information requests is a vital part of that.”

GMP must now devise and publish an action plan within 35 days detailing how it will respond to information requests in a timely fashion, while also clearing its backlog of late requests by 31 July 2024. The force could be held in contempt of court if it fails to comply with these actions.

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