Police Federation

The importance of getting data protection laws to work with police, not against them

Updates on the #SimplifyDG6 campaign.

10 October 2023

Ben Hudson, Chair of the Police Federation National Detectives' Forum
Ben Hudson, Chair of the Police Federation National Detectives' Forum

The DG6 session took a detailed and technical look at the current campaign to simplify disclosure and redaction regulations that exist as part of the Data Protection Act 1998.

First to speak was Surrey Police Chief Constable and NPCC Disclosure Lead Tim de Meyer.

CC De Meyer compared current disclosure regulations as being akin to “a growing dragon asleep under a child’s bed that threatens to wake and fly off destroying the house”.

The metaphor provided some insight into how significant a threat to good investigations and prosecution the current disclosure issues present to detectives up and down England and Wales.

On disclosure, CC De Meyer, said: “It is the nexus at the heart of everything we do - you do not get justice without truth and you do not get to the truth without good investigations.  And there is no good investigation without good disclosure for it is not an adjunct to the investigation, it is not an administrative afterthought - it is the investigation.”

This is why both CC De Meyer and fellow presenter Detective Inspector with Suffolk Police, Ben Hudson, who is also chair of the Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum, are so clearly passionate and hard working when it comes to getting the rules around disclosure adapted to suit modern policing.

To bring the importance of the issue home, CC De Meyer often asks his audiences, and indeed those detectives working under him, to imagine a dearly loved one and how they would react if they fell victim to crime. They would of course want efficient and thorough investigation and arrest leading to justice.

“Disclosure is central to this,” he explained. “Justice is not served when cases collapse with revelations of information not disclosed.

“Many teams are understaffed. Workloads are high. Time to properly sit and digest the tirade of changes is limited. And time required to produce a case file of quality has become significant, of that we are all clear. And I am clear that pre-charge redaction is the inherently unproductive villain of the criminal justice system.”

He argued that wasted capacity in redacting rebuttable presumption material that may never fall to be disclosed to the defence, is indefensible.

“Hours and hours of investigators’ time is spent redacting, anywhere between four and nine hours per file, significantly more for complex cases. It seems unlikely to me that legislators intended for the Data Protection Act to have such a deleterious effect on the criminal justice system by restricting safe and secure communication between trusted law enforcement agencies,” he added.

And it is for this reason CC De Meyer has been championing change at the most senior of levels, directly to the Government and the Policing Minister.

Ben Hudson spoke second and began by updating conference on progress made in the past 12 months, and especially since 26 May last year when the Attorney General’s office released its Annual Review of Disclosure.

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 CPS for charging decisions. Such as the need to redact far more material than before and the lack of consistent and detailed face-to-face training to enable officers to be upskilled to handle the challenges the guidance brought to case building.

“On reviewing the guidance, it became clear to me that the issue wasn’t necessarily the guidance,” stated Ben. “The issue was the Data Protection Act and the restrictions it placed on policing when passing material to the CPS.”

On 30 August 2022, PFEW officially launched the #SimplifyDG6 campaign.

The campaign asks the Government to make amendments to the Data Protection Act to simplify the redaction obligations placed on police officers and calls on the NPCC, the College of Policing, and the CPS to jointly work with the Federation to ensure all members across the country receive face-to-face training on disclosure procedures.

On 10 January 2023, the campaign was picked up by Suffolk MP Peter Aldous who raised the issue in the Parliament and asked Edward Argar, Minister of State for Victims and Sentencing about his awareness of the impact of disclosure rules to policing and its unintended consequences.

The Minister has 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.”

The campaign has also been championed by MP Jane Hunt.

Since engaging with the campaign, Jane has:

  • Spoken during the Second Reading of the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill
  • Met with the Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure
  • Spoken with the Home Secretary on our behalf
  • Written to the Prime Minister, Attorney General, Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire, and Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure
  • Sits on the Committee for the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill
  • Met with the Information Commissioner's Office


Ben is happy to have the support of both MPs who have accelerated the campaign forward, and he has sought legal advice and had an appropriate draft annex prepared to facilitate transfer of personal data between the police service and the Crown Prosecution Service prior to charging decisions. We hope this draft can be simply inserted into the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill.

Ben continued: “Since last addressing you, we have taken big steps forward. I am now calling upon the Government to adopt our amendment into the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.

“The proposed amendment would have no obvious disadvantages. Security of personal data would not be compromised. The redactions, which are needed to protect our personal data, would still be undertaken, however this would be done at the appropriate stage. Most importantly unnecessary redaction would be avoided; which is everything we have been looking to achieve.”

But there is still work to do. Ben urges MPs nationally to ask Ministers, especially those within the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology who are the Bill sponsors, ‘why isn’t this being supported, why the amendment simply isn’t being adopted into the Act, and why they don’t want to help put officers back into their communities and enable both victims and those accused of crimes to receive swifter charging decisions?’

As of today, Ben says: “We have a drafted clause ready to be adopted into the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill. We have Jane Hunt MP, who sits on the Bill’s committee, who has spoken about the amendment during the Committee Stage and has given Ministers time to bring in the necessary reforms themselves.

“To date, these reforms have not been forthcoming. So, Jane has now re-tabled the amendment at the Bill’s committee ahead of its Report Stage. We have a growing number of MPs who have co-signed the amendment and are happy to support it. We have now gone as far as we can to get this amendment included within the new Act.”

In terms of what can be done further, Ben urged PFEW members to write to their local MPs to ask them to lobby the Government to support this vital amendment to the Act to aid policing at a time when demand constantly outstrips resources.

“I call upon the Government to assist policing by adopting this simple and straightforward, low-risk amendment to the Data Protection and Digital Information Act,” he concluded.

Watch the session back below.

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