Obtaining Information from Government Departments and Agencies and Open Sources


This guidance offers practical advice for operational Inspectors when trying to find out what information is available, and how to obtain it from Government Departments or Agencies such as Police, DVLA, Land Registry, Home Office, HMRC, Ordnance Survey, and Companies House.  The guidance also provides some advice on how to undertake an open source search on the internet.


This guidance can enable operational staff progress their investigations when there is little or no information available to trace individuals who are either a witness or a suspect in a live case.  The information can also be used to confirm the employment status of individuals.  The majority of requests are provided without a formal arrangement being in place.


The following is a list of possible information sources which may assist with an ongoing investigation.

PNC Check (Police National Criminal Database check)

Requests are made in respect of a defendant, defence witness, or prosecution witness for a case that is due in court. PNC checks cannot be used to carry out background checks on individuals unconnected with court proceedings.

PNC information details previous and on-going criminal convictions of prosecution witnesses, defence witnesses, and defendants in HSE prosecutions. The process also takes into account information relating to disciplinary matters for any HSE or other Govt Dept staff who are prosecution witnesses.

Open Searches

On-line sources have a vast amount of publically available information which can be accessed free and includes social networking sites and blogs

Benefits: Immediate snapshot of information from legitimate public record sources and is often cost efficient.

Risks: The information can be reliant upon third-party sources; accuracy of the results may need to be vetted further.

The following is a number of tips that may prove helpful in helping to identify individuals or trading companies and their contact details.

These searches must be completed before requesting communications data under RIPA.

Searches using a telephone number

In Google search for the telephone number using main variations including the national dialling code and area code, eg 02071234567, 0207 123 4567, +44 (0)207 123 4567, +44 20 7123 4567 etc.

This type of search can produce trading as names for companies, company or individual social media accounts and addresses or alternative numbers.

Searches using a name

When searching using a name it is important to consider variations in how names are spelt.  It can also help by enclosing the name in double quotes, this will return only results with the exact phrase you are looking for. This is especially useful when conducting searches on individuals who have a common name; eg "John A Doe".

You can also exclude results from a search by placing a – symbol in front of the word you want to exclude; eg  "John Doe" – football.  This type of search can be useful when the name you are searching is the same as someone who is famous.

Google has a search function called AROUND which can be used to search for a combination of search terms when one dominates the results, but you're interested in the relationship between two terms. If Google can't find anything within the limit, it will just do regular search without the AROUND coming into play; eg "John Doe" AROUND(3) "Jane Doe".  AROUND must be capitalized; the "(3)" represents the number of words separating the two terms.

Local Authorities - Electoral Register and Council Tax data

Current or last known addresses of an individual being sought as part of an investigation can be obtained by writing to Local Authorities Electoral and council tax records.

The Data Protection Act recognises that it is sometimes appropriate to disclose personal data for certain purposes to do with criminal justice.  The Act deals with several situations in which personal data is processed for the following purposes:

  • the prevention or detection of crime; and
  • the capture or prosecution of offenders;

Inspectors should state that Section 29(3) of the Data Protection Act 1998 allows for such a request and under the following exemption:

'Personal data are exempt from the non-disclosure provisions in any case in which –

the disclosure is for any of the purposes mentioned in subsection (1) [ie 29(1)(b) the apprehension or prosecution of offenders], and,

the application of those provisions in relation to the disclosure would be likely to prejudice any of the matters mentioned in subsection(1) [ie 29(1)(b)as above]'.

A example letter can be found in Appendix 1 which can be adapted to suit the specifics of each case.

Vehicle Registration Checks (DVLA)

Information about a vehicles history or vehicle keeper information at a specific date can be obtained from the DVLA.

Section 29(3) of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) allows for such requests as HSE is discharging it's statutory function to ensure the health and safety of persons at work, and any other person affected by that work.

The relevant form should quote the DPA exemption mentioned above and make notes that a Government Agency, and provide HSEs Data protection registration number - Z5936290.

The forms should be sent to:

Hard copies booklets of the forms can be obtained from DVLA by faxing 01792 783525 on Letter headed paper.

DVLA telephone number for queries is 01792 782761

Land Registry Searches

Requests for information connected to who owns a specific property or land can be made to the Land Registry.  Requests must be in relation to a Health and Safety Breach or a possible prosecution.  The service attracts a fee which FOD manages centrally for HSE and as a result  all requests from any Directorate for reports must be routed via FOD HQ Finance Team. 

Non-urgent requests

Land Registry reports should be emailed to: FOD Finance. The e-mail should indicate the information required ie Who owns the property, and if you are requesting the report on behalf of someone else, who the reply should be sent to. The report will be sent electronically within 48 hours.

Urgent requests

Please telephone FOD HQ: Jim Holt, or Cheryl Bannister, who will obtain the reports/information requested and send to you electronically.

Requests for communications data under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act  2000

A RIPA communications request should only be used when all other avenues have been exhausted, including performing an open internet search detailed above.  

The information that can be requested Includes: Subscriber details for mobile and landline phones, billing name and address.  Itemised records of outgoing calls.

Accredited Officers within the Legal & Enforcement team will review each application, and if acceptable, arrange for a designated person to authorise. Once authorised, the accredited officer will request the required data from the communications service providers, and result details will be sent to the originating Inspector.

The Single Point of Contact (SPOC) is the Legal and Enforcement Team, Redgrave Court, Bootle.

 Authorisation is made by designated officers. These are: Directors of Operations, Head of Division or Heads of Operations within each Directorate.

Forms are retained and are subject to external audit by the Interception of the Communications Commissioner

Authorisation for directed surveillance under RIPA

Directed surveillance can be used for a specific investigation or operation and involves the observation of a person or persons with the reasonable possibility of gathering private information.

Complete RIPASUR1and email to FOD Legal and Enforcement.

The form should be sent via, or copied to, your Band 2 Principal Inspector (or Band 1 if the applicant is a Band 2), who should be fully aware of, and support, the application. Directed  surveillance must not take place before authorisation.

The Single Point of Contact (SPOC) is the Legal and Enforcement Team, Redgrave Court, Bootle.

Legal & Enforcement team will process the application and send to a nominated officer for authorisation.

Authorisation is made by nominated officers. These are: Directors of Operations, Head of Division or Heads of Operations within each Directorate.

Forms are retained and are subject to external audit by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC).

Requests for Information from HMRC

HMRC should only be used when all other avenues have been exhausted.

HMRC can provide – Employer and employee information, Self employment, National Insurance number, income tax, Employment status etc

The single point of contact (SPOC) is Legal and Enforcement and all requests must be made via the SPOC.  Application forms are available on request.

Legal and Enforcement will forward completed forms to HMRC for their consideration.

Line Managers should be aware of, and support the request

Ordnance Survey Maps

When Land Registry are not able to identify a property from the address details, they request that we send them an Ordnance Survey Map to the scale of 1:1250 with the area for the search outlined in red.

If you need to obtain a map for a Land Registry search, please send an email to HSL giving the postal address, or as much information as possible to identify the land, plus details of who the map should be sent to. One of the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) team will extract the required mapping area and email it back to you.

The area to be searched must be drawn around with a fine red pen and scanned and emailed to: FOD Finance who manage the process centrally for all of HSE.

A Team at HSL coordinates HSE staff's use of Ordnance Survey mapping products.  FOD Finance keep a record of numbers of requests.

MINT UK, Dun and Bradstreet or Companies House

Used to identify company information and/or reports.  A search service is provided by BSD4 Information Management Unit (IMU). Details of the kind of information available are at SearchTeam Infoservices.

Email your request for company information to SearchTeam Infoservices or complete the search request form.


A number of requests incur a cost to HSE and staff should ensure that the request is essential before progressing. Where line management support is required please ensure they have been made aware of the request beforehand.


All Operational Inspectors

Further References

Further information on open source searching can be found here:



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Updated 2023-02-16