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Data protection law blocks EDP bid to name criminal suspects on run for years in Norfolk and Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 09:54 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:54 05 February 2018

An attempt by this newspaper to name suspects wanted for years by police has been blocked under data protection rules. Picture: Denise Bradley

An attempt by this newspaper to name suspects wanted for years by police has been blocked under data protection rules. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant

An attempt by this newspaper to name criminal suspects wanted by police for years has been blocked.

The EDP story from August last year about suspects who have evaded police capture for the longest length of time. Image: ArchantThe EDP story from August last year about suspects who have evaded police capture for the longest length of time. Image: Archant

Last year we asked Norfolk and Suffolk police forces under the Freedom of Information Act for the details of the 15 suspects wanted for the longest period of time.

They included suspects wanted for rape, fraud, assault and drug offences.

Some of them have been sought by Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies since the mid 1990s, but both forces refused to tell us who the suspects were, apart from two who had been previously named.

They said releasing details to the public would breach the Data Protection Act and would be “unfair” to the suspects.

This newspaper appealed to both police forces but they rejected our appeal.

We then took the case to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) which regulates the Freedom of Information scheme.

We argued the public’s right to know about suspects wanted for years by their police forces should override the data protection rights of the suspects.

But the ICO rejected our appeal.

Other police forces in the country have released the information through similar requests, but the ICO said that did not mean all forces had to.

It agreed that personal data should not automatically be excluded under the Freedom of Information Act but said releasing it in this case would breach data protection rules.

We argued a suspect who had evaded police capture for years should expect police to seek them and it was not beyond their expectation for police 
to release their details as part of this.

The Information Commissioner agreed public interest could override data protection and there was “considerable public interest” in this case but its “default position” was to protect the individual’s personal data.

It said the police had shown it protects the public as well as the public’s right to know.

The Information Commissioner concluded that disclosing names would not be in the suspects’ “reasonable expectations” and would be “unfair”.

The suspect on the run for the longest period is someone wanted for drug supply in Newmarket in 1993.

The most serious offence is someone wanted for a rape in Ipswich in 1999 and a separate suspect wanted for rape in Norwich in 2005.

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