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The RSPCA has been enjoying access to confidential information held on the Police National Computer (PNC), including being able to view criminal records and carry out vehicle checks.

Ken Tindell, from technology news website “The Register” (www.theregister.co.uk) discovered after a series of Freedom of Information requests that there is no formal auditing system in place for the manner in which the RSPCA uses the data from the PNC, but that it pays the Association of Chief Police Officers Criminal Records Office (ACRO) a fee for the service. The agreement between ACRO and the RSPCA states that the charity can only request information concerning people it is actively investigating, and that it will treat the data as “restricted” and delete it when it is no longer needed. Not only is the charity’s use of the data not being audited, but as the RSPCA is not a “public authority” under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, it need not disclose what information it uses, or how.

There is concern that the information could be used by untrained staff members, or that it could be misused. Jamie Foster, a partner at national law firm Clarke Willmott, said that this is an extremely worrying state of affairs. Mr Foster told Shooting Times: “It appears that the police are giving unrestricted and unaudited access to the Police National Computer to a campaigning charity with links to animal rights activists. Details such as whether a person holds a gun licence could be disclosed. There is simply no oversight of whether the RSPCA goes on to share these details with the League Against Cruel Sports, Animal Aid, the Anti Cull movement or any of the other groups they have contact with.

The rest of this article appears in the 7th August issue of Shooting Times.

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