We seek them here – we seek them there

It never ceases to amaze me the extent to which officials will try to wash their hands of responsibility – particularly when to the layman the topic in question is exactly what they should be overseeing. Well an excellent example of this has fallen into my lap, and unless there is a change of heart by the Home Office will end up eventually in front of the Information Tribunal.

One of the questions that I (and I imagine others) ask quite frequently is how many people who are on the Sex Offenders’ Register have disappeared. There are two ways of finding this information. Method one involves asking every force in the country the same question to see how many of its paedophiles have fallen off the radar. The second, and wholly simpler way of getting to this information, is asking the Home Office who collate all the information on a computerised register known as VISOR.


You’d expect that the Home Office would be pretty interested in the information themselves as knowing the extent to which convicted sex offenders have broken their ties with their local police forces might be considered important. So when I asked this question to the Home Office at the back end of 2013 I was expecting to get a reply within the 20 working days that the Act specifies. Well how wrong can you be? After various complaints and chaser letters I eventually got a substantial response in December 2014, more than a year late! Incredibly after waiting all this time for a reply the Home Office then said although they did hold the information, it wasn’t held by them for the purposes of FoI.

Obviously I appealed and the Information Commissioner ruled in my favour [FS50570940] saying that at the time of my request the Home Office held the data for the purposes of FoI. The ICO added that even if my request had post-dated the change by the Home Office which it used to say it didn’t “hold” the data, the argument was not “wholly convincing”. I should say so.

Anyhow, in light of the ICOs decision I sent off a fresh request for information and as yet haven’t had a reply. As for my original 2013 request that looks as if it is set to go to the Tribunal. I have not been asked to be a party to the proceedings but I may just turn up anyway as it will be interesting to see the Home Office argue that a database it holds on the whereabouts of dangerous criminals is not really its responsibility.

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