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Accessing sensitive information

Closure Guidelines 

Introduction

This document explains briefly why certain restrictions have been introduced on a number of records held by Hull City Archives and Hull University Archives at the Hull History Centre, including records relating to hospitals, orphanages, schools and MPs, and how access can be gained in certain circumstances. For a fuller explanation, please see our more detailed guidelines available by personal application or in the searchroom.

Hull City Archives and Hull University Archives have introduced closure periods on some records in order to comply with current legislation, particularly the Data Protection Act, 1998 (DPA). The DPA is about disabling or inhibiting inappropriate access to personal data. Providing access to information is one of our primary functions, but we have a duty to provide individuals with a degree of privacy and we must comply with the law.

Closed Records

Records are closed to assume a lifespan of 100 years. Therefore records concerning children are closed for 100 years from the last date of entry. Records concerning adults are closed for 75 years, mixed records (with information on children and adults) are closed for 100 years. Health Patient records are closed for 100 years. Some records are closed for slightly longer than required (for example those in bound volumes) as the closure period is calculated from the latest date of entry.

Exemptions and enquiries

Data subject rights - City Archives

Under the DPA you have a right to see personal information held about you. If the information is not readily accessible by you because the records have been closed, a copy or transcription of the information will be provided by a member of staff. You or your representative should make a request in writing.

A copy of the Data Subject Access Request Form (PDF) is available, and you are requested, but are not obliged, to use it; however the form is helpful to both you and the member of staff dealing with the enquiry as it ensures that the right information is supplied.

Requests will be subject to a charge of £10 each search and this includes four A4 copies if relevant and we have an obligation to ensure that your request is answered within 40 days of the fee and your proof of identity being received.

If the information is readily available, i.e. accessible by coming into the Hull History Centre without compromising others rights under the DPA, you will be offered the opportunity to view the relevant records. Completing the Data Subject Access Request Form will still be required.

Data subject rights - University Archives

If you have an enquiry relating to Data Subject Access from amongst the deposited archives held by the University, please contact Simon Wilson, the University Archivist in the first instance.

Access to data on the deceased - City Archives

We acknowledge that many of you, particularly family historians, will wish to gain access to personal data regarding an individual that is less than 75 or 100 years old. However, research undertaken for the purposes of family history does not satisfy any of the DPA’s exceptions because it is based on personal information regarding specific identifiable individuals. However the rights of an individual under the DPA end with death.

A copy of the 3rd Party Access Request Form is available, and you are required to use it to make your request. You need to sign the form certifying that the individual is deceased. A copy death certificate should be shown if available or the date of the data subject’s death so that the entry on the General Registry Office Index of Births, Marriages and Deaths can be checked.

If the information is not readily accessible because the records have been closed, a copy or transcription of the information will be provided by a member of staff. We regret that a maximum of one hour will be spent on these 3rd party requests under the DPA and such requests will be subject to a charge of £16 for half an hour’s research and £32 for 1 hour for each search and this includes four A4 copies if relevant and we have an obligation to ensure that your request is answered within 40 days of the fee and your proof of identity being received.

If the information is readily available, i.e. accessible by coming into the Hull History Centre without compromising others rights under the DPA, you will be offered the opportunity to view the relevant records, but the 3rd Party Access Request Form will still be required.

Academic or Press researchers claiming access under exemptions in the DPA

Exemptions from the DPA allows further processing of data, in the form of research, to be undertaken for historical and statistical purposes or where public interest can be proved.

Requests to gain access to personal data in archives will need to be checked against the exemptions listed in the DPA and the guidelines and advice available. Most requests should come under ‘Research Exemptions’ (DPA section 33) which includes statistical and historical purposes. This research must observe the ‘relevant conditions’:

  • that the data is not processed to support measures or decisions with respect to particular individuals
  • that the data is not processed in such a way that substantial damage or substantial distress is, or is likely to be, caused to any data subject.

What about Freedom of Information?

The Freedom of Information Act, 2000 (FOIA) came fully into force in January 2005. The FOIA gives people a right of access to information held by public bodies. However the rights of access are overridden by certain exemptions (section 40 of FOIA), one of them being the rights of data subjects under the DPA.