Many of you will have seen in the media this week (and in today'sTelegraph) the serious revelations about an agreement between ACPO Criminal Records Office (ACRO) and the RSPCA, which allows the RSPCA to access information held on the Police National Computer (PNC). The PNC holds large amounts of information about people who have been convicted, cautioned or arrested but also holds information on vehicles, the registered keeper of a vehicle and firearms licensing.
Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of an RSPCA investigation will be all too aware of the close relationship between RSPCA officers and the police and we believe the agreement between ACRO and the RSPCA is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the types of information the RSPCA can access. We have sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all police forces in England and Wales asking if there is a force level Information Sharing Agreement (ISA) with the RSPCA. We found that out of the 39 police forces in England and Wales that responded to the FOI, 10 have formal ISAs with the Society.
It seems that the agreements vary in terms of the information shared, but some include exchanging intelligence, joint operational activity and information held on the National Firearms Licensing Management System and vehicles. This rebuts ACPO attempts to play down the type of information the RSPCA receives as it put in its statement 'indirect access does not include firearms licensing, vehicle registrations (which are held on other systems to the PNC) or any information that the RSPCA does not need in order to prosecute a case at court.'
I have written to the Information Commissioner who deals with issues of information sharing, making it clear that I believe there is no legal basis for agreements between ACRO, the police and the RSCPA. The RSPCA is neither a public body, nor a statutory prosecutor and I am unaware of any primary legislation naming the RSPCA which allows for data sharing for purposes of criminal investigation and prosecution. It is sinister that a campaigning charity, which has shown itself to have a clear and politicised animal rights agenda, increasingly used against members of our community, has access to such information. This access could pose serious risks to individuals about whom information is gathered and we await urgent advice from the Information Commissioner.