Using the Data Protection Act

The Data Protection Act entitles individuals to see all the information that an organisation holds on them. This applies to all organisations, not just public sector bodies. To get this information, you need to write to the organisation and say you are making a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act for all the information the organisation holds on you. You will need to tell them your name, address and any other information that will prove who you are and help them locate the information, such as a customer number or boat name and registration number. If you have been subject to any enforcement action by BW the information you get may be useful in challenging this.

When BW log boat sightings this is recorded in a system called SAP, which includes a facility for BW staff to enter manual notes on a notepad. Several boaters have received these SAP notepad notes after asking specifically for them in a Subject Access request. One boater discovered that the enforcement officer had logged his boat movements in 2009 as not strictly complying with cc guidelines but has moved over a distance of 24km  (15 miles) so not suitable for cc enforcement procedure. Another boater discovered, also in 2009, that although a cruising range between Bath and Hilperton over a four month period meant that the boat was subject to enforcement action through the “cc procedure”, travelling to Semington five weeks after that meant that BW considered the boat was moving  “.. in accordance with the guidelines. Date for review extended to establish future movements”. Three weeks after cruising to Seend, BW’s log read “much improved movement pattern over recent weeks, date for review extended to ensure this can be sustained.”  Three weeks later after travelling to Bishops Cannings, BW noted “boat now moving in accordance with cc requirements ZE closed”. ZE is the code for enforcement notification.

When making a Subject Access request it is important to be specific about the information you think they hold. For example, the request should ask for all information connected to patrol notices, CC1/ CC2/ CC3 letters, Section 8/13 notices, complaints you have made etc, and the dates of all these. So keep all your patrol notices – don’t light the fire with them, however tempting that is! It is also important to ask the organisation to search all the formats they may have for information about you, such as letters, emails, boat sightings, SAP records, SAP notepad notes, databases, and records of payments made or received, etc. If you think they haven’t provided everything, ask for another search to be made and be specific about what type of records you think they should be looking for.

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