Providing information to the police

As outsourced DPOs, we come across a lot of interesting situations – such as the question of data protection when providing information to the police. 

We understand that having the police either give you a call or arrive in person may be a daunting experience. The immediate reaction of most people is just to give them what they want, as we tend to think, “it must be important if the police are asking for it.” 

This blog will explain what you need to know if the police request information from you. 

What must the police provide when they ask you for information? 

In reality, if the police request information about a particular person, they must provide  you with a standard form requesting to have the data and the reasons for the request. The privacy and protection of data is important, even when dealing with law enforcement. 

If the request falls into one of the three categories below, then disclose the minimum  information needed to help their investigation. 

You must always document what you have done by recording the information disclosed: to  whom it was disclosed, when it was disclosed and on what basis it was disclosed. In  addition, you must stipulate whether the data subject (the person you are providing  information about) was informed or not.


1. Confirm that this is an emergency request

Confirm this is an emergency request, i.e. if the information is not provided immediately it  would place one or more individuals at significant risk of harm. Remember, just because an  officer is physically present, it does not mean it is an emergency.

2. Speak to the police if you are obliged to by law

Is the police officer seeking information that you are obliged to provide by law? For example, are they requesting details that might help identify someone involved in a road traffic accident or terrorism? If a statutory duty to provide information is claimed, then seek details from the police officer and record the relevant statute along with details of the information you have provided.

3. Does the public interest warrant disclosure?

Will the information help the police with a serious crime such as murder, terrorism, safeguarding children or adults at risk of abuse or neglect, rape, kidnapping, gun or knife injuries, significant public health risks, or significant risk to one or more individuals? 

If the request is not one of the above, then you must decide whether or not to release the information to the police, although it’s likely that you should release the information, unless you have a really good reason not to.

4. Do the police need to have a warrant to speak to me?

The police do not necessarily need a warrant to speak to you. However, they must ensure that they have filled out the correct paperwork. 

FOR ALL CASES, THE POLICE MUST FILL OUT A FORM CALLED A “Schedule 2 Part 1 Para. 2 Data Protection Act 2018 Exemption” (old s.29 DPA 1998 exemption) 

Note that a Schedule 2 exemption does not provide a statutory requirement to disclose information, nor do permissive legislation such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 or the Crime and Disorder Act 1988. Confirm that the officer asking for the information is doing so to prevent or detect a crime or prosecute an offender. 

If a Schedule 2 exemption is claimed, get this in writing, signed by a senior officer, and ensure there is: 

  • A clear indication that the police are confident that they are working within the framework of the DPA and will satisfy all relevant DPA requirements 
  • Clarification on whether informing the individual about the disclosure would prejudice the investigation 
  • A clear description of the specific information that is requested

Speak to a data protection officer for further expert advice 

If in doubt about any of the above, Sapphire Consulting is on hand to help. We are outsourced data protection consultants and are fully qualified and equipped to handle queries relating to this and other privacy concerns. 

Give us a call and we will be able to help you through the process – our role as data protection officers can ensure that you are doing the right thing.

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