PSNI urged to clear backlog of unanswered FOI requests
THE PSNI has been urged to clear "without further delay" a backlog of unanswered Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
The Irish News yesterday revealed police have amassed nearly 300 unanswered FOIs – amounting to more than a fifth of requests they have received this year.
FOI legislation gives people a right of access to an array of information held by public bodies, and has been used to expose various issues including the MPs' expenses scandal.
Under the law, public bodies must reply to FOI requests promptly and within 20 working days.
However, for months there have been significant delays to the PSNI's responses to many FOI requests.
The PSNI confirmed there were 273 FOI unanswered requests that had not been responded to within the legislative timescale.
It blamed an "increased demand" for FOIs, staffing issues and budget cuts.
Police said they have updated the Information Commissioner's Office on their plans to address the issue.
Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly, the party's policing spokesman, criticised the PSNI over the backlog.
"The Freedom of Information process is an important tool for ensuring transparency and accountability within any public body," the North Belfast MLA said.
"Public confidence is key to any good policing service and an organisation like the PSNI should be aiming to adhere to the very highest standards with regard to Freedom of Information requests.
"A backlog of 20 per cent of Freedom of Information requests within the PSNI is clearly not acceptable.
"Such delays can often mean that the information requested becomes redundant.
"The backlog needs to be prioritised and cleared without further delay."