Firearms and SARs
Date sent: Thursday 18 October 2018
The ICO has recently written to the BMA regarding Subject Access Requests in relation to firearms licensing. The ICO has stated-
The ICO is aware that the access to medical records for the purposes of firearms licensing has raised concerns, given the more stringent provisions of the new data protection regime, but it is our view that the police have adequate powers and authority to deal with this as they have done hitherto, namely by approaching the GP direct for information they require. This would permit the GP to provide only information which, in their professional judgement, was pertinent to the application. Applicants would be asked to consent to the approach by the police to the GP. This would not constitute consent in data protection terms – we are satisfied that the police would not be obtaining and processing the data on the basis of consent - but would be closer perhaps to the sort of consent which the medical profession uses when treating a patient. It would represent a means of ensuring that the applicant was aware of, understood and accepted the need for obtaining medical data to support the decision whether or not to award a licence.
To summarise, therefore, it is the ICO’s view that the previous means of obtaining medical information, which you have mentioned, is still permissible under the DPA and that therefore the ‘enforced subject access’ approach you describe is not only unnecessary, but could potentially constitute a breach of the DPA.
This statement supports Lincolnshire Police and the LMCs view that SARs are not appropriate for firearms licensing purposes. If patients request a SAR for this purpose, it would be appropriate for you to share this ICO advice with them.
I hope that this helps.