#SimplifyDG6 is a campaign to amend the data protection laws and the disclosure guidance to stop PFEW members from being Officer A.
The campaign aims to identify and amplify the practical difficulties faced by responding police officers, investigative officers and detectives in redacting case material at the pre-charge stage in accordance with the prevailing Crown Prosecution Service Disclosure Guidance 2020 – made effective from 1 January 2021.
PFEW is lobbying the Government to highlight the need for amendments to the General Data Protection Regulation, Data Protection Act 2018, and the disclosure guidance itself to rectify the damaging and time-consuming problems the current legislation creates.
The campaign, launched on 30 August, 2022, will:
The journey so far:
The targeted campaign was launched following the release of the Annual Review of Disclosure by the Attorney General’s Office on 26 May 2022 (the Annual Review). The review acknowledged many of the shortcomings in the Guidance which have placed significant additional pressures on policing when submitting any case file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for charging decisions.
The campaign specifically asks the Government to execute a legislative amendment to the DPA to mitigate the impact of bureaucratic burden of evidence redaction imposed on police officers when seeking charging decisions from the CPS. This would free up thousands of policing hours every year as pre-charge redactions would not be required and would enable chief constables to better utilise allocated budgets when the Government is restricting public spending.
Support from the NPCC:
Within 12 minutes of the campaign's launch, the NPCC reached out to the PFEW’s Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF) expressing support for the campaign and soon issued amendments to the Joint Principles for Redaction. The revised Joint Principles for Redaction were developed by the CPS and the NPCC Disclosure portfolio setting out their joint position on how to approach data protection responsibilities.
In a joint letter on 6 October 2022, Tim De Meyer, Assistant Chief Constable and NPCC Lead for Disclosure, and Greg McGill, Director of Legal Services of CPS urged all chief constables and chief crown prosecutors of England and Wales to apply the revised guidance and said: “We are confident that this guidance, applied correctly, will reduce the redaction burden whilst also complying with the legal framework”.
The revised principles, supported by legal advice from a KC specialising in information law, ensure they are legally robust and have been endorsed by the co-chairs of the Joint Operational Improvement Board (JOIB).
The main changes to highlight in the principles are:
Subsequently, PFEW issued a toolkit for all its members and circulated it through its 43 branch boards providing detailed guidance about how to apply the revised guidance.
PFNDF Chair and Secretary of Suffolk Police Federation, Detective Inspector Ben Hudson, who is leading the campaign, says: “We are pleased to be made part of the National Disclosure Improvement Board for the first time and welcome the revised Joint Principles for Redaction issued by the NPCC and CPS. However, this does not mitigate the impact of case file building on policing and justice delivery. Therefore, we are asking the Government to amend the DPA to enable police forces to safely share data with the prosecutors without the gratuitous obligations to redact evidence.”
#SimplifyDG6 in the Parliament:
The campaign’s ask of bringing a legislative amendment to the DPA found a strong ally in one of Suffolk’s Conservative MPs, Peter Aldous, who on 10 January 2023 raised the issue on the floor of the Parliament and asked Edward Argar, Minister of State for Victims and Sentencing: “Has my Rt. Hon. Friend liaised with colleagues in Government with regard to amending the Data Protection Act to ease the bureaucratic burden on policing and to speed up the administration of justice?” To this the Minister replied: “We are determined to reduce any unnecessary bureaucratic barriers that make it harder for our police, and criminal justice system more broadly, to work as effectively as possible. While I am not aware of any discussions about the specific issue that my hon. Friend mentions, or about the Section 29 exemption for policing under the DPA, I am aware that the Police Federation is doing some work on the issue. If he is willing to write to me with more details, I am very happy to look into the matter further.”
Following raising the issue in the Parliament, Peter wrote a letter to Chris Philp, Minister of State for Crime, Policing and Fire, highlighting the campaign, and emphasising the reasons for amending the DPA to create a data bubble between the police service nationally and the CPS.
Commenting on the political support #SimplifyDG6 has garnered, Ben says: “It is encouraging that lawmakers such as Peter Aldous are voicing our concerns before the Government in the Parliament.
“It is our position that there is an urgent need for amending the DPA. We also hope to formally engage with the Attorney General to see how these concerns can be addressed.”
Ben has invited Rt. Hon. Victoria Prentis KC MP, Attorney General for England and Wales, for an opportunity to discuss in further detail the idea of a legislative amendment to create the data bubble.
On 21 February 2023, the campaign received further attention of lawmakers at the formal meeting (oral evidence session) of the Justice Committee when Rt. Hon. James Daly, Conservative MP for Bury North, questioned Michael Tomlinson KC MP, Solicitor General at Attorney General’s Office, if they are considering an amendment to the Data Protection Act as proposed by the Federation? Mr Daly also warned Mr Tomlinson about “the time spent by police officers redacting information to comply with data protection law before it is shared with CPS”. Watch it here.