New rules on preserving email correspondence in public bodies needed, say politicians

The recent public enquiry into the events surrounding the visits of the Chinese head of state and the suppression of anti-Tibet demonstrators have highlighted a serious loophole in the system

Just before Christmas last year, after two years’ work at a cost of 23.3 million kroner, the Tibet Commission finally delivered its report on the events surrounding the visits to Denmark of China’s head of state in 2012 and 2013.

The commission was set up to investigate who was responsible for pro-Tibet demonstrators being moved on, detained and having their banners and posters confiscated by the police in contravention of their constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully.

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When the report was published, the commission was more or less forced to conclude that two middle-ranking police chiefs were solely responsible for issuing the illegal orders.

Off the hook
But officers higher up the chain of command escaped criticism because their email accounts had been deleted before the enquiry started and were therefore unavailable to the commission, DR Nyheder reports.

A majority in parliament now wants to devise a set of rules governing how long public bodies should be obliged to keep emails.

“It is totally absurd that these important emails in particular have not been part of the commission’s remit. It seems futile that the enquiry has been going on so long when they have not had access to them,” said Josephine Fock, a spokesperson for Alternativet.

No backup
According to Rigspolitiet, the system only keeps deleted emails for a period of 30 days. After this there is no backup, either of mails that employees have deleted themselves or of the email accounts of the police chiefs who are no longer working there.

The justice minister, Søren Pape Poulsen, has promised to look into the matter and the police have also indicated they will examine their internal rules for keeping deleted emails and see whether there is a need to extend it longer than 30 days.