Northern Ireland news

PSNI secures extra staff to tackle FOI backlog

PSNI's Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd
Brendan Hughes

THE PSNI says it has secured extra staff to help tackle a huge backlog of unanswered Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

In November it emerged police had amassed a backlog of nearly 300 unanswered FOIs – amounting to more than a fifth of requests received last year.

It prompted concerns from politicians and transparency campaigners who described it as "worrying" and warned "policing will go unscrutinised" if problems continued.

The backlog of 273 requests has since been reduced by almost a third to 192.

FOI legislation gives people a right of access to an array of information held by public bodies.

Often used by campaigners and journalists, FOI has helped expose issues including the MPs' expenses scandal and Prince Charles's lobbying letters to ministers.

Under the law, public bodies must reply to FOI requests promptly and within 20 working days, but for months there have been significant delays to many police FOI responses.

Assistant chief constable Alan Todd said the PSNI has "secured additional staff who will be assigned to work exclusively on FOI and data protection requests".

"PSNI are committed to meeting our statutory obligations in relation to Freedom of Information and data protection," he said in a statement.

"We have an action plan in place to ensure we can respond promptly to FOI requests despite facing high request demands and cuts to the policing budget.

"At present PSNI has 192 late requests, 93 of which are actively in progress. This represents a 29.6 per cent reduction in the number of late requests since you last contacted us about this last November.

"We hope to continue to make progress at this rate until we can return to a position of having no late FOI requests.

"Whilst the Corporate Information Branch carries out a range of duties, it has secured additional staff who will be assigned to work exclusively on FOI and Data Protection requests.

"These staff are due to be appointed shortly. In the interim all of the staff in the branch have been refocussed to assisting with the processing FOI and data protection requests.

"PSNI have notified the Information Commissioner of the measures we have put in place and have been updating them regularly as to our progress."

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