004/2014 OPCC Records Management and Correspondence Handling Policy – 20 May 2014

This policy has been superseded by the Records Management and Correspondence Handling Policy for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner on 18 May 2018.

Executive Summary and recommendation:

This paper provides a process for all members of staff within the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) relating to:

Records management including,

  • the retention and destruction of documents

Correspondence handling including,

  • Various types of complaints
  • Subject Access and FOI requests
  • Vexatious correspondence

The focus of this policy is to ensure the OPCC is as open and transparent as possible, not only so the public know what to expect from the Commissioner and her office, but so OPCC staff have a standard policy document to refer back to, ensuring members of the public and stakeholders, and their records, are responded to and retained appropriately.

It is recommended that this policy is formally adopted with immediate effect.

Police and Crime Commissioner decision: Policy approved

Signature:

signature

Date:  20 May 2014

Title:  Police and Crime Commissioner


 

Part 1 – Unrestricted facts and advice to the PCC

1. Introduction and background

This policy has been drawn up following the very high volume of correspondence received in the OPCC.  This includes general enquiries, official or unofficial complaints and legal queries e.g. FOIs

To ensure this variety of correspondence is responded to appropriately a correspondence policy is needed.  This also covers the different types of complaint that can be routed through the OPCC, such as Chief Constable complaints and Police and Crime Commissioner Complaints, complaints against police officers or police staff, and complaints made against members of the OPCC.  Each has a different complaints framework, which is clearly laid out in this documents.

The same as the above is true for legal enquiries.  FOIs and other legal queries come into the OPCC concerning both Commissioner activities and North Yorkshire Police activities.  It is important these matters are responded to within statutory timeframes, which are also set out in this policy.

Following on from the above is the retention of any of this documentation.  To ensure all OPCC staff are managing information and data appropriately, this policy sets out clear parameters which staff can work to.

At the same time as this policy has been developed, OPCC security is also being reviewed.  This will include physical and computer based security, and progress is being made to ensure all appropriate security measures are in place.

2.  Matters for consideration

Correspondence Handling

When correspondence is received, either in writing, by email or via private/direct messaging on social media, OPCC staff will triage the correspondence.  All OPCC staff should refer any appropriate correspondence received by them directly to individual email accounts into the triage system.

All email correspondence is acknowledged in the first instance with an auto-response, which explains a substantive response will be sent in due course.

Where possible, business as usual correspondence should be responded to substantively within 5 working days.  Please note different statutory time limits apply for subject access and FOI requests.

Correspondence will be handled as follows:

  1. Business as usual requests about OPCC business will be handled by the OPCC staff
  2. Business as usual correspondence about NYP business will be referred to the relevant NYP department within 2 working days.
  3. Complaints correspondence will be handled in accordance with the “Complaints” section below.
  4. Correspondence expressly referring to the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) or Data Protection Act (DPA) will be referred to the Civil Disclosure Unit within one working day.
  5. Correspondence containing requests for information that do not expressly refer to FOI or DPA will be handled in accordance with the “Requests for Information Section” below.

Correspondence that does not fit into any of the above categories will be referred to the Chief of Staff to the OPCC for consideration as to how it should be dealt with.  OPCC staff should also note the guidance below relating to vexatious correspondence.

The Chief of Staff will issue written correspondence protocols from time to time, which supplement this Procedure.

Complaints

Complaints correspondence should be handled as follows:

  1. Complaints about the Police and Crime Commissioner – pass to Chief of Staff to the OPCC immediately, the Chief of Staff will then forward to the Police and Crime Panel.  At the same time the Chief of Staff will also make the Commissioner, Chief Executive and Head of Legal Services aware.
  2. Complaints about the Chief Constable – forward to the Commissioner and copy to the Chief Executive. The Chief Executive will forward to the Head of Legal Services as appropriate.   A copy should also be sent to the Chief Constable’s Staff Officer.
  3. Complaints about personnel serving with North Yorkshire Police under the direction and control of the Chief Constable – forward to the Chief Constable’s Staff Officer and Professional Standards at NYP. Complaints about personnel employed by the Police and Crime Commissioner forward to the Chief Executive Officer and Professional Standards at NYP.
  4. Complaints about staff of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner – forward to the Chief Executive Officer.
  5. Complaints about statutory officers of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner – forward to the Chief Executive Officer for the Commissioner’s  Chief Finance Officer and forward to the Commissioner for the Chief Executive.

The Public Complaints Procedure contains further detail about the complaints handling procedures.

Requests for Information

Any requests for NYP information will be referred to the relevant department within NYP.

If a written request for information held by the OPCC (that does not expressly refer to FOI) is received, the Chief of Staff to the OPCC will consider the following:

1.  Identify whether the request is a valid FOI request.  A written request for information does not have to specify it is an FOI request in order for it to be valid.  A valid FOI request is one that is:

  • In writing (this includes emails etc)
  • States the name of the Applicant and an address for correspondence
  • Describes the information requested

2.  If it is a valid request, consider whether it can be dealt with as a business as usual (BAU) request. Equivalent guidance within the police service, which the Commissioner intends to follow, states that to be treated as BAU as opposed to FOI, the request for information must fit the key criteria in that:

  • It must not indicate that it is an FOI request
  • The information will be provided
  • The information will be provided within 20 working days

Any requests that meet this criteria can be dealt with by the OPCC without the need to handle them in accordance with the FOI Act.

3.  If it is not appropriate to deal with the request as a BAU then it should be referred to the Civil Disclosure Unit immediately.

Malicious & Vexatious Correspondence

The OPCC does not wish to set out to categorise correspondence as vexatious unless absolutely necessary.  However, in order to ensure that the vast majority of individuals who contact the Commissioner are given the due attention and regard they warrant and can expect, the Commissioner reserves the right to, in exceptional circumstances, make a decision to discontinue corresponding with an individual.

This position is a last resort when an assessment has been made that a disproportionate amount of time is being consumed with a single issue or individual, where the complaint or correspondence is deemed to be malicious or of a vexatious nature.  In such circumstances OPCC staff should liaise with Legal Services to consider the nature of the correspondence and whether any alternative action is appropriate or legally necessary.  In appropriate cases where a decision is taken that the OPCC will enter into no further correspondence with an individual on a particular topic, the individual will be informed that further correspondence on the same issues will be placed on file and will not be responded to.

Aggressive, abusive and threatening correspondence and/or telephone calls to OPCC staff will not be tolerated.  The OPCC reserves the right to refrain from responding to such correspondence and/or terminate any such calls.

Information Sharing

Information held by the OPCC, including personal information, may need to be shared by the from time to time.  This may be as a result of a statutory obligation or power.

A statutory obligation applies where there is a specific legal obligation to disclose information to another party, for example:

  • Freedom of Information
  • Rights of access under the Data Protection Act

A statutory power applies where there is a specific legal power, but not an obligation, to share information with another party. If the OPCC is asked to share information held by the OPCC with partner agencies, before sharing information (particularly if the information is sensitive personal information) it should be determined whether a statutory/legal purpose exists to enable sharing.

The Memorandum of Understanding provides further detail about the circumstances in which the Chief Constable and the Commissioner may be required to, or may choose to, exchange police information.  No police information should be shared by the OPCC without first consulting the relevant NYP business area and referring to the Memorandum of Understanding.

Data Protection Act 1998

The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) came into effect in March 2000 and provides individuals with a right of access to information that an organisation may hold about them.

The DPA states that those who record and use personal information must be open about how the information is used and must follow the eight principles of ‘good information handling’.  Anyone processing personal data must comply with the eight enforceable principles of good practice. The principles state that data must be:

  • Processed fairly and lawfully
  • Processed for limited purposes
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • Accurate and up to date
  • Not kept longer than necessary
  • Processed in accordance with the data subject’s rights
  • Secure
  • Not transferred to countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) without adequate protection

The OPCC will comply with the Data Protection Procedure [link] which provides further detail about compliance with the DPA.

Subject Access Requests

The Subject Access provisions of the DPA give an individual the right, subject to certain exemptions, to have a copy of any personal data held about them.

Section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998 states that a ‘data subject’ (the person about whom the personal data refers) is entitled, upon written request, to be informed whether or not personal data is held or processed about them. This service is not a pre-employment vetting service and applicants wishing to apply for subject access as a condition of employment will be directed to the Disclosure and Barring Service or Disclosure Scotland for the disclosure services afforded by these organisations.

Should an individual wish to know what information (if any) the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire Police holds about them, then a request can be made in writing to the Civil Disclosure Unit at Police Headquarters, Newby Wiske Hall, Newby Wiske, DL7 9HA.  Any queries about Subject Access requests should be directed to that address, or via email to civildisclosure@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk.

The Civil Disclosure Unit will process these requests in accordance with the Subject Access Procedure.

On receipt of such a request, the Civil Disclosure Unit will request a copy of the relevant information held by the OPCC.  The OPCC will provide this to the Civil Disclosure Unit within 10 working days.  The Civil Disclosure Unit will then process the disclosure, and inform the OPCC when a response is sent out to the Applicant.

Any subject access requests received directly by the OPCC should be forwarded to the Civil Disclosure Unit within 2 working days.

Freedom of Information Requests

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives the public a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities, including the right to be told whether the information exists, as well as the right to receive that information, subject to certain exemptions if applicable.

FOI requests can be submitted to the OPCC via the website, email or post.  On receipt of a FOI request, the OPCC staff will send this via email to the Civil Disclosure Unit mailbox within one working day.  The Disclosure Assistants in the Civil Disclosure Unit will log and acknowledge the request, copying this acknowledgment to the Chief of Staff to the OPCC, the Governance Support Officer and the Police Lawyer (Civil Disclosure).

The FOI request will be handled by the Police Lawyer (Civil Disclosure) in accordance with the FOI procedure, subject to the following:

  • That openness and transparency of responses to FOIs is of paramount importance, and is an important marker as to the culture of the police service more generally
  • FOI responses must be public focussed, easy to understand and meet timescales wherever possible
  • The Chief of Staff to the OPCC or the Governance Support Officer will supply the Civil Disclosure Unit with the relevant recorded information held by the OPCC in respect of the request.
  • The Police Lawyer (Civil Disclosure) will prepare a draft response to the FOI for approval by the Chief of Staff to the OPCC.
  • The final response, when approved by the Chief of Staff to the OPCC, will be sent (as a pdf) by the Governance Support Officer and published on the FOI Disclosure Log on the OPCC website.
  • The Governance Support Officer will inform the Police Lawyer (Civil Disclosure) when the response has been sent and published.

Records Management

A record is defined as “information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organisation or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business.” (BS ISO 15489: 2001).

Records are a valuable corporate resource, providing the organisational memory.  Accurate records provide evidence of past actions, decision making, audit trail and accountability.

This policy incorporates all records of all formats/media owned and managed by the Commissioner, and applies equally to all employees of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (“OPCC”) and all individuals contractually bound by OPCC policies and procedures. The types of examples of items that can constitute records include:

  • Documents (including written and typed documents and annotated copies)
  • Computer files (including word documents, databases, spreadsheets and presentations)
  • E-mail messages
  • Diary records
  • Fax messages
  • Brochures and reports
  • Intranet and Internet Web pages
  • Forms

It is the duty of all individuals to adhere to this policy and relating procedures to enable effective management of information.

This policy does not apply to copies of documents published by other organisations that are kept for reference purposes only.

Retention & Destruction of Documents

Records should be retained for the periods detailed in the  Retention Schedule – refer to Appendix A .  The schedule has been produced to assist in ensuring good practice and compliance with Freedom of Information, Data Protection and other legislation and guidance.

The minimum retention periods quoted in the schedule relate to any type record the information may exist in e.g.; electronic or paper. To reduce storage costs it is recommended that paper records are scanned using PDF software, where appropriate to do so, and are subsequently added to the file management system in line with procedure. This will ensure the effective retrieval of the information in the future.

The areas contained within the schedule have been separated into 7 broad sections;

1. OPCC Business

2. OPCC/Deputy Crime Commissioner Services

3. Management & Administration

4. Health & Safety

5. Human Resources

6. Legal & Contracts

7. Finance

The schedule table has a number of headings:

URN – Unique number for each record to assist with version control

Information – The overall type of record referred to

Category – Defines the function / area of business

Description – Further detail of the type of record referred to

Minimum Recommended Retention – The recommended required retention period prior to physical disposal

Rationale / Legislation – The reasoning behind the length of retention stipulated

All of the recommended retention periods are given in whole years, where ‘EoFY’ is shown this relates to the end of the current financial year.

Records should be disposed of by shredding / arranging for collection as confidential waste for destruction by the appropriate body and this should also include all back-up copies on alternative media.

NOTE: Whenever there is a possibility of litigation or a request under the Freedom of Information Act the records that are likely to be affected should not be amended or disposed of until the threat of litigation has ended or the appeal processes under the Freedom of Information Act have been exhausted.

A record of disposal of the information detailed in the attached schedule should be maintained which identifies each record destroyed. Where a decision is made to retain a particular piece of information for longer than the time set out in the schedule, justification should be noted to provide the evidence for this decision.

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire (OPCC) will hold information which relate to the statutory functions of the former Police Authority.

Standard Operating Procedure

This applies to records which do not need to be kept at all. Information which is duplicated, unimportant or of short term use can be destroyed under the Standard Operating Procedure, including:

  • compliments slips
  • catalogues and trade journals
  • telephone message slips
  • non-acceptance of invitations
  • trivial e-mails or notes not related to OPCC business
  • requests for stock information such as maps, plans or marketing material
  • out of date distribution listsworking papers which lead to a final report
  • duplicated and superseded material such as stationery, manuals, drafts, address books and reference copies of annual reports
  • hard copies of documents where an electronic copy has been saved on the OPCC system

except where these may be used as evidence to prove that something happened.


 

3.  Other options considered, if any

Not having a policy of this nature was considered, but is not an option.

4.  Contribution to Police and Crime Plan outcomes

Putting people first

5.  Consultations carried out

Legal Services have developed this proposal alongside OPCC staff

6.  Financial Implications/Value for money

There are no direct financial implications of this Decision Notice.

7.  Legal Implications

This report does not ask the Commissioner to make a decision which would (or would be likely to) give rise to a contravention of the law.

8.  Equality Implications

None

Public Access to information

The Police and Crime Commissioner wishes to be as open and transparent as possible about the decisions he/she takes or are taken in his/her name. All decisions taken by the Commissioner will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

As a general principle, the Commissioner expects to be able to publish all decisions taken and all matters taken into account and all advice received when reaching the decision. Part 1 of this Notice will detail all information which the Commissioner will disclose into the public domain. The decision and information in Part 1 will be made available on the NYPCC web site within 2 working days of approval.

Only where material is properly classified as restricted under the GPMS or if that material falls within the description at 2(2) of The Elected Local Policing Bodies (Specified Information) Order 2011 will the Commissioner not disclose decisions and/or information provided to enable that decision to be made. In these instances, Part 2 of the Form will be used to detail those matters considered to be restricted.  Information in Part 2 will not be published.

Is there a Part 2 to this Notice – NO

Originating Officer Declaration – Author name:  William Naylor,  Collar number: 6908

  Name       (Collar Number) Date of completion (√)
Head of Departmenthas reviewed the request and is satisfied that it is correct and consistent with the NYPCC’s plans and priorities. Will Naylor 6908 29/04/14
Legal AdviceLegal advice has been sought on this proposal and is considered not to expose the PCC to risk of legal challenge or such risk is outlined in Part 1 or Part 2 of this Notice. Jane Wintermeyer3840 09/05/14
Financial AdviceThe CC CFO has been consulted on this proposal, for which budgetary provision already exists or is to be made in accordance with Part 1 or Part 2 of this Notice. Gary Macdonald5299 9/5/14
Equalities AdviceEither there is considered to be minimal impact or the impact is outlined in Part1 or Part2 of this Notice. Author to complete as Equalities matters are mainstreamed within departments.  Will Naylor 6908 29/04/14

I confirm that all the above advice has been sought and received and I am satisfied that this is an appropriate request to be submitted for a decision

Signature            William Naylor                                                                                  Date   29/04/14

Published on
20/05/2014