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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 00:05 GMT
Police ordered to delete records
Mouse and keyboard, Eyewire
The old records turned up when the individuals applied for jobs
Four police forces have been ordered to delete criminal records dating back decades because they are "no longer relevant".

The Information Commissioner told West Midlands, Humberside, Northumbria and Staffordshire forces their records on four people breached data protection.

The individuals complained to the commissioner after their history showed up in checks when they went for jobs.

Each force is appealing against the ruling.

The Association for Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said it was "regrettable" the commissioner had decided to make the cases public while they were being appealed against.

The record held by Humberside Police related to the theft of a packet of meat, worth 99p, back in 1984 when the complainant was aged 16.

'Juvenile prank'

Staffordshire Police also held a record in which a 13-year-old girl was cautioned for a minor assault.

The woman said she was told the information would be kept until her 100th birthday.

The individuals contacted the commissioner Richard Thomas, saying they were concerned after the old records appeared on Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks.

John Webb, 45, from Hull, was one of those who complained after a conviction surfaced from West Midlands Police dating back to 1978.

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas ruled the records were "no longer relevant"

Mr Webb was 16 when he was caught using metal discs cut to the size of 1p and 10p pieces in a fairground slot machine.

He said: "I had no idea that this incident would have come to light after such a long period of time.

"I accept what happened in the incident was wrong, I consider that by today's standards what I did would be considered more of a juvenile prank."

A spokesman for the commissioner said the records were "no longer relevant" and "excessive for policing purposes".

'Disappointed and surprised'

Assistant commissioner Mick Gorrill said: "Each case relates to individuals who have been convicted or cautioned on one occasion and have not been convicted of any other offences."

He added: "The retention of the previous conviction information is causing harm and distress to the individuals concerned.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Keeping petty offences on file for decades seems pretty pointless
Fancyapint, UK

"We are not satisfied that in these particular cases this information will be of any use for policing purposes."

The forces are appealing each at the Information Tribunal, which means the files will not be deleted until a final decision is reached.

Humberside Police deputy chief constable David Griffin said: "I am disappointed and surprised that the Information Commissioner's office have chosen to publicly comment on matters that are still undergoing an appeal process."

Ian Readhead, of ACPO, said: "It is regrettable that the Information Commissioner has decided to go public on a matter that he knows will be subject of an Information Tribunal hearing early in the new year."



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