Exclusive: Devon and Cornwall Police under investigation for failing to answer Freedom of Information requests

The force has apologised for the delay in answering requests Credit: ITV News

Devon and Cornwall Police has referred itself to the Information Commissioner's Office after failing to respond to three months' worth of data requests.

ITV West Country can reveal the force is currently dealing with more than 200 unanswered requests from members of the public under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, dating back to October last year.

The act requires public authorities to respond to questions within 20 working days. Ninety-five of the outstanding requests to Devon and Cornwall Police are past this legal limit.

The force's FOI office has apologised to people who are still waiting for information, blaming staffing levels for "significant delays".

Authorities can face financial penalties for failing to comply with the act.

Devon and Cornwall Police self-referred itself to the Information Commissioner’s Office on 2nd January 2019 due to its compliance rates.

Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman

The Freedom of Information Act came into force in 2005, allowing anyone to access data held by public authorities such as councils, police forces and hospital trusts.

Around 120,000 requests are made each year by private citizens, businesses and journalists.

The act has helped to uncover major stories such as the parliamentary expenses scandal; police officers serving with criminal records; overspending at universities; and correspondence between the Royal Family and cabinet ministers.

Authorities can face financial penalties for failing to comply with the act.