asked Her Majesty's Government:
What action they have taken with regard to the Council of Europe resolution (DH(2000)106) in connection with the release of personal information concerning Mr Graham Gaskin and his time in institutional care; and what actions they intend to take to ensure the early implementation of judgments such as that of the case of Mr Gaskin.
The Data Protection Act 1998 came into force in March this year. The Act implements the European Directive on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data, and on the free movement of such data. It also gives effect to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the 1989 case Gaskin v the United Kingdom concerning the right of access to social work records. At the same time guidance on the working of the Act was issued to social services departments by the Department of Health.
Local authorities were warned of the Act's pending implementation in 1998 and formally advised to act in the meantime as if the Act were already in force so as to give data subjects access, where possible, to personal information held about them in social services files.
Under the Act, responsibility for the release of personal information held by social services departments continues to rest with local authorities. Local authorities also retain the discretion to refuse access. However, in such circumstances the Act gives people the right to appeal against the decision to the Data Protection Commissioner or the courts.