Article by Simon Bass from

The tension between child protection and data protection gained some clarity in 2005 following the Bichard Inquiry Final Report, following the Soham murders, and the importance of information sharing for child protection purposes. With the advent of GDPR there has been understandable concern about how these regulations might affect information relating to child protection. 

GDPR regulations make it clear that information can’t be deleted where it is needed to comply with a legal obligation or for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims. Furthermore Schedule 3 Part 5 of the new Data Protection Act outlines exemptions from Article 15 of the GDPR relating to health, social work, education and child abuse. This Schedule makes provision for restrictions from certain GDPR provisions where this is necessary for health, education and social work purposes. This section does not apply to Scotland.

When the UK leaves the EU, the GDPR will be incorporated into the UK’s domestic law under the powers in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, currently before Parliament.

Churches and faith based organisations should have a retention and disposal policy for all records, and comply with the principles of GDPR, and the Information Commissioners Office has produced some useful documents in this regard. Existing retention policies should be examined in light of these changes to data protection.  

In 2015 leaders of denominations’ were sent a letter from the then Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) outlining a list of the types of documents that should be retained, as they may be needed by the inquiry. At present there are 13 investigations including the Church of England and the Catholic Church. Other faith groups could become the subject of an investigation therefore for the duration of the Inquiry all such records as outlined should not be destroyed.

Further information can be found at:

The Data Protection Act 2018

Chair of the Inquiry issues guidance on destruction of documents 23 June 2015


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