Sunday, 7 June 2009

SOUTH Yorkshire Police have broken the law by failing to respond to a Freedom of Information request – and claim they are too busy to comply with the regulations.
A formal request put in by the South Yorkshire Times on March 25 relating to whether policy had changed on informing the press and public about reported crime had still not been answered 37 working days later, on May 20. The law states that a reply or refusal must be received within 20 working days.After a reminder was sent an email reply was sent by Freedom of Information Compliance Clerk Frances Wilson saying: "We are currently dealing with your request and realise that it has gone over the 20 working days. "Unfortunately we have a backlog of cases at present due to an unforeseen surge in requests that we are trying to deal with as quickly as possible and we are currently recruiting a new member of staff to help reduce the backlog."The Times asked the Information Commissioner's Office – the body responsible for regulating the FOI Act – to comment.A spokesman emphasised the responsibility of public authorities to abide by the act saying: "The ICO promotes access to official information through the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.This gives everyone the right to obtain information from public authorities unless there is good reason to keep it confidential."Individuals must make freedom of information requests directly to the relevant public authority. "If the request is not answered to the satisfaction of the requester, he/she can ask the authority to carry out an internal review. "If the requester remains dissatisfied, a complaint can be made to the ICO. The ICO looks into all complaints.

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