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Enforced subject access requests now a criminal offence

13 March 2015

Since 10 March 2015 it has been a criminal offence, under s. 56 of the Data Protection Act 1998, to require individuals to make enforced subject access requests (SAR) whereby individuals’ provide personal information (including criminal records and cautions) to secure employment, goods, services or facilities.

The aim is to ensure such information is obtained through the Disclosure and Barring Service, shielding individuals from excessive disclosure of personal data that certain third parties may have no legitimate access to.

Enforced SARs remain permissible under rule of law or court order or if it is justifiable in the public interest. ICO guidance states “extremely strong justification” is needed to rely on the latter exception. For example the prevention or detection of crime would not benefit from the public interest defence due to the existence of formal criminal record checking procedures.

Organisations should ensure information related to individuals’ convictions and cautions is obtained through legitimate procedures as the offence can lead to an unlimited fine.

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