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Journalist reveals police forces failing to meet FoI laws

A regional journalist wrote to every police force in England to find out the worst performers when it comes to responding to freedom of information.

Gavin Aitchison, news editor of The Press in York, sent FoI requests to 38 police forces in England to find out if they were meeting legal criteria which states that requests should be responded to within 20 days.

Of 37 responses it was revealed that Dorset constabulary is the worst performing in the country with a 24.6 compliance rate, followed by North Yorkshire Police with 43.2pc.

In October HTFP reported that on one occasion North Yorkshire Police took  98 working days to respond to a FoI request from Gavin.

After NYP’s poor performance was uncovered, Gavin decided to investigate further and find out how long other forces took to comply with requests.

His findings have since been picked up by other regional newspapers including the Weymouth-based Dorset Echo.

In total, 28 of the forces had figures of 85pc or higher and 14 of those topped 95pc. Derbyshire Police and Avon and Somerset Police both had a 100pc record between April and October 2011.

Hampshire Constabulary was the only one not to provide any figures.

Said Gavin: “I was interested to see whether the problems at North Yorkshire Police were indicative of a wider national trend. The replies show they are not the only force struggling – but the vast majority of forces do have a considerably better response rate.”

Simon Dennis, North Yorkshire Police’s director of legal and compliance services, told the paper that in the current financial climate, the force’s resources must be concentrated upon maintaining front line policing services.

He said since 7 April, 330 out of 548 requests had been completed, but said 181 of the remaining 218 cases were overdue.