Data-sharing plans on sexually active children fall foul of regulator

The information commissioner’s office has voiced concerns about
several areas of the London Child Protection Committee’s interim
protocol for professionals working with sexually active young

In its initial response to a complaint from Action on Rights for
Children, which claimed the interim guidelines breached the Data
Protection Act 1998, the commissioner’s office said the guidance
seemed to go further than a “proportionate response” to the risk to

While it said it was “not against the concept of data-sharing where
it was in the best interests of a child”, the protocol was too
vague about which professionals would decide to refer cases to the
police when there were low levels of risk involved.

The interim guidelines, which were published in May, were developed
in response to recommendations made by Sir Michael Bichard in his
report on the Soham murders.

According to the protocol, cases where a child under 13 is sexually
active should be reported to the police and social services.

The guidelines also state that professionals should consider
checking with the police to find out whether the sexual partner of
a child under 16 is having, or has had, other “concerning
relationships” with children or young people.

Under the protocol, the Metropolitan Police will provide
information about children and their sexual partners for the
purposes of an agency’s risk assessment without treating the
request for data as a “formally referred allegation of crime”.
Instead it will record the request for “intelligence

But this also caused concern at the information commissioner’s
office, which said it was worried about who would have access to
information held by the police on sexual partners who had been

The commissioner’s office is contacting the LCPC and other agencies
involved in the protocol to discuss its concerns.

Barry Quirk, chair of the LCPC, said: “It [the guidance] is
currently out for consultation and all views on it will be
considered before a final version of the protocol is

The chairperson of the British Medical Association’s ethics
committee last week voiced his opposition to the protocol.

Michael Wilks said it would create confusion for doctors and should
be withdrawn.

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