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Category: Freedom of Information (Page 1 of 2)

Stubborn or Persistent? You Decide.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In August year I wrote a post relating to my submission of an an FOIA request to the Metropolitan Police concerning Murders and Ethnicity in London.  How many murders had there been?  How many had involved Knives etc? and how many were committed by black males on black males.

The response I received was basically this

The MPS is unable to disclose information which is being used as part of an investigation. There is a legal requirement to refrain from disclosing information which would place the integrity of an investigation or any future investigations at risk. Once the investigation or legal process is complete, some information may be deemed suitable for disclosure.

In addition, disclosure of the information requested could identify living persons captured by the scope of this request. Individuals could analyse the information (and along with local knowledge and information already disclosed) identify those concerned as part of the investigation.

 

This would hinder the prevention and detection of crime and also prejudice the MPS’s ability to fairly conduct an investigation and future investigations of this nature.

A subsequent appeal to the Met just received a confirmation of their original Refusal, which I contend, was based on a large untruth.

In response to an appeal to the Information Commissioner the Met repeated the alleged untruth and the Information Commissioner upheld their Refusal.

I had run out of road, but I’m not the type to let them fob me off like that. So…….I bided my time and submitted a new request, a slightly watered down version of the original, but no point in just submitting a duplicate.

Well, blow me down with a feather, they only went and answered this time.

The information they supplied me was nothing more than the bare minimum in answer to the below questions;

For the years 2022 and 2023 could you please tell me
a) How many murders and attempted murders were recorded?
b) How many of those involved a knife or other sharp/bladed instrument?
c) In how many of the total number were the Victim and Suspect/Accused both/all black males?  

I’m too long and far removed to be able to interpret the figures with any authority, I can’t really make valid comparisons, but I do know how to display the raw data.

Murders in LondonMurder black on black

Murders & Attempts

It’s for others to decide whether the number of offences committed by black males on black males is statistically significant, but at least we have an idea what it looks like now.

 

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Government Transparency (or Lockdown Boredom)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I admit it, Lockdown has got to me. I am bored. I’m even bored enough to find out how various Government Departments perform, faced with incoming Freedom of Information Act requests.

I can hardly believe it, but it would appear that the Government actually pays someone to gather the data and make sense of it.

I wasn’t very bored so I only went back as far as 2015, just to see if there was any discernible difference between Government Departments. I have ignored data from a couple as they weren’t represented in every year’s data, and just confused me.

Different departments received different levels of requests, some many, others fewer. In order to make sense of the different levels I converted the numbers to percentages, thus allowing straightforward comparisons across Government.

Government Transparency (or Lockdown Boredom)
Fig 1. Refusals

It should maybe come as no surprise to note that my old sparring buddies, the Home Office, are right up there as one of the top 3 or 4 ‘Refusers’.

For the benefit of anyone who is bored enough to know, the average Percentage Refused was 33%, so anybody above that (like the Home Office perhaps) is possibly fighting the system. A Low Number is definitely the way to go here.

I couldn’t be arsed to look into the various reasons for Refusing, so I went to Timeliness. Who is most efficient at getting their responses out within the 20 day limit?

Government Transparency (or Lockdown Boredom)
Fig 2. Timeliness

Figure 2 above shows us that there is a difference in performance between Government Departments. A high number is definitely better here. The average across Government is that 87% of requests would receive a response within the 20 day time limit. Looking at a random Department such as the Home Office indicates that their performance has slid back slightly, and they are currently only achieving 81%.

If I had to comment on a random Government department such as the Home Office I would say that they are Underachieving. Doesn’t Try Very Hard, Could Do Better. Below average Timeliness and Above average Refusals indicates that they are part of the problem, not the solution when it comes to Government Transparency.

Enjoy the remainder of your Lockdown, I’m off for a Friday G&T.

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College of Policing – A Beacon of Transparency

Reading Time: 4 minutesIt may be a surprise to some of you but I am not a huge fan of the Direct Entry Scheme for Inspectors and Superintendents into the Police Service. Sorry to shock you, but it’s true. I am, however, curious about it.

We hear quite a lot about it but I was never really sure what sort of numbers we were talking about. So I set about finding out.

A couple of Freedom of Information requests to the College of Policing should sort that out.

  1. Nationally, how many Direct Entry Inspectors have been recruited

Answer:- 54 (since the programme started in 2016)

  1. How many of these have subsequently resigned or been dismissed?

Answer:- Information is held but is considered to be exempt from disclosure by virtue of the exemption provided under section 40(2) of the FoIA. The figures recorded are low and disclosure combined with information available in the public domain, creates a risk of an individual being identified. For further information about the College’s application of section 40(2) please refer to Appendix A.

  1. Nationally, how many Direct Entry Superintendents have been recruited?

Answer:- 32 (since the programme started in 2014

  1. How many of these have subsequently resigned or been dismissed?

Answer:- Information is held but is considered to be exempt from disclosure by virtue of the exemption provided under section 40(2) of the FoIA for the reasons given above. For further information about the College’s application of section 40(2), please refer to Appendix A.

It seems that they’re quite keen to let me know how many have been recruited, but not so keen to let me know how many have dropped out or been ‘let go’. I find that quite startling really because the very next paragraph is:-

The College is committed to openness and transparency. To assist you in your enquiries and in the spirit of the FoIA, it may be helpful for you to know that the number of Direct Entry inspectors who have resigned or been dismissed is 10 or less.

And

The College is committed to openness and transparency. To assist you in your enquiries and in the spirit of the FoIA, it may be helpful for you to know that the number of Direct Entry superintendents who have resigned or been dismissed is 10 or less.

Personally I don’t find that terribly helpful or transparent, because it doesn’t really tell me anything concrete that I can work with. However, it does tell me:-

A) Up to 18.5% of Direct Entry Inspectors have fallen by the wayside one way or another since 2016.

B) Up to 31% of Direct Entry Superintendents have quit or been let go since 2014.

Is this just simply a ‘Healthy Churn’? Maybe it’s the College making good on their promise to help officers to leave and become Policing Ambassadors in the big, wide world.College of Policing - A Beacon of Transparency

Or maybe the Direct Entry Scheme simply doesn’t work for a large percentage of the people in it.

 

Just a thought. Without the College being so helpfully transparent it would have been almost impossible to assess how successful the scheme has been. I’m sure that the majority of serving Sergeants and Chief Inspectors awaiting promotion are suitably reassured.

Oh, and by the way, for the benefit of any #FOIA Geeks who want to know what Appendix A says about the College’s Refusal to comprehensively answer questions 2 and 4, enjoy:-

Section 40(2) FoIA – Personal Information (applied to items 4 and 5 of your request)

40

(2) Any information to which a request for information relates is also exempt information if- (a) it constitutes personal data which do not fall within subsection (1), and
(b) either the first or the second condition below is satisfied.

Under section 40(2) FoIA (by virtue of section 40(3A)), personal data of a third party can be withheld if it would breach any of the data protection principles to disclose it. Personal data is defined in section 3(2) of the DPA 2018 as:

‘any information relating to an identified or identifiable living individual’

Section 3(3) defines an identifiable living individual as ‘a living individual who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to –
(a) an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data or an online identified, or (b) one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of the individual’

The two main elements of personal data are that the information must ‘relate’ to a living person and that the person must be identifiable. Information will relate to a person if it is about them, linked to them, has some biographical significance for them, is used to inform decisions affecting them, and has them as its main focus or impacts on them in any way.

A figure representing the number of individuals whom have resigned or have been dismissed from the Direct Entry programme may not in itself constitute as personal data. However, the low numbers identified as a result of the searches conducted, if combined with information in the public domain or otherwise, creates a substantial risk of an individual being identified. As such, it is our view that the information in question is categorised as personal data.

The data protection principles are given under Article 5 of the GDPR. Article 5(1)(a) states that personal data shall be ‘processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to the data subject’. We consider that those attending the Direct Entry programme would have a reasonable expectation that certain information about them, held by the College, would not be disclosed further. The College has a duty of care towards those whose data we hold. It would not be fair and hence, a breach of Article 5, to put this information into the public domain without express consent having been given.

For your information, section 40(2) in these circumstances is an absolute exemption and there is no requirement for the public interest test to be considered.

Personally I can’t regard that as very ‘transparent’. I only know the identities of a handful of the recruits to this scheme, I’m certainly unaware of the identity of any who have dropped by the wayside. I only asked for a total number, how on earth I, or anyone else, could work out their identities from that is completely beyond me, but then I don’t have a degree, maybe that’s the reason.

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Who Co-Ordinates The Co-Ordinators?

Reading Time: 3 minutesMustn’t swear, honestly, but yesterday provided me with a  true WTF moment.

Following the recent visit of that nice Mr Trump to the UK, it became obvious via news and Social Media, plus personal observations on the M40, that many Police Officers had been deployed on Mutual Aid to assist with the Policing and Security for the visit.  Nosey old me wondered just how many cops had been disrupted by Mutual Aid.  It allegedly cost Police Sotland £5 Million for Mr Trump to enjoy a round of golf.  Even my local Golf Club isn’t that expensive.

Who co-ordinates Mutual Aid in England and Wales. Answer:- The National Police Co-Ordination Centre, part of the National Police Chiefs Council.

So, I fired them off a Freedom of Information request thus;

1. How many Mutual Aid deployments have there been in England and Wales?
2. For each deployment, which force received the Mutual Aid?
3. How many officers were sent on Mutual Aid?

To be helpful I even added the foillowing rider;

“I specifically DO NOT REQUIRE any details concerning the nature of the deployment”

To be fair I never expected an actual answer, I always anticipated a Refusal.  Over the cost limit is normally a good one, or we don’t comment on operational matters for security reasons.  Either of those would have done.  However, they broke new ground.  Yesterday I got my eagerly awaited response

NPCC Response:
The NPCC does not hold information captured by your request. NPoCC coordinates national assistance only. They do not record all mutual aid, for example, if forces within a region send resources to each other.
A consideration may be to make a request with individual forces. On this occasion, I am unable to assist you.

That was it, in its entirety.  Not a single word have I omitted.

So, for the biggest Policing operation for quite a while the NPoCC knew NOTHING about the Mutual Aid.  A whoie world of stink was being kicked up about some of the sleeping accommodation.  Leaves were cancelled in many Forces.  Mutual Aid was certainly provided froom somewhere.

So I ask you, readers of mine, did your Force send Mutual Aid to the Met for Trumpy’s visit? Are you outside of the ‘Region’?  Who the hell does monitor Mutual Aid and co-ordinate it if not the National Police Co-Ordination Centre?

To the National Police Chiefs Council I say this, many, many people think that you are nothing more than servants of this government.  Certainly not enough opposition has been voiced to the stringent cuts to Policing Levels and Budgets, just “we must work harder or smarter within our new budgets”.  We all KNOW that the loss of approx 21,000 Police Officers, and many of them are from the Front Line, can only impact adversley on Law and Order.  I suspect that many areas are being Policed at dangerously low levels, particulary in Ruralshire and at night.  The first duty of the government is to protect its citizens.  They are failing in their duty if their cuts and policies are seeing rises in murders, assaults, Knife Crime etc etc.

“The primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime: the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To these ends all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquillity, and the absence of crime, will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful and whether the objects for which the police were appointed have been attained.”

Please, NPCC, please tell me how the Police Service of 2018 is fullfilling its Primary Objective?

I may well challenge your response to my FOI request, but far more important than that, PLEASE answer my question above.

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Tory PCC Expenses & #FOI Raise Their Ugly Heads Again

Reading Time: 2 minutesHas anybody here seen Julia Mulligan since the PCC Elections?  She seems to have gone walkabout, or at least her office has in FOIWorld.

31st March, I posed a simple question (or at least I thought it was)

Dear North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner,

I notice from the Commissioner’s published expenses an entry on 13th June 2013, this is for Invoice Number SI10384, payable to the Association of Chief Police Officers, for PCCs Fees and Subscriptions, for an amount of £10,695.34 with a description of ACPO fees.

Could you please tell me;

a) To whom do these fees refer?

b) Could you please provide me with electronic copies of the invoice and any other documentation referring to this item of expenditure?

Thank you

Yours faithfully,

Not an unreasonable question I thought, shouldn’t take too long to answer that one.  It was particularly relevant in the run-up to the Election because Ms Mulligan was being particularly transparent and bringing her Expenses and Allowances data on her website up to date.  Very commendable, good to see.

In view of my question just imagine how shocked and surtprised I was when the 20 day limit came and went, and I was forced to issue a gentle reminder.

Nowhere near as shocked and bemused as I was when I received the following response on 29th April

Good Morning,

I acknowledge that your request is overdue however we are still waiting for the statistics from the relevant business area. I can only apologise for the delay and will endeavour to respond to your request as soon as possible.

Kind regards,

Robert Bates
Collar Number 5480
Legal Officer (Civil Disclosure)
North Yorkshire Police

Committed to the Code of Ethics

Well, here we are on the 24th May, still no reply, the statistics are presumably still not ready.

Come on Ms Mulligan the Law requires you to respond.  This is your opportunity to show us that you are not a Home Office puppet.  Don’t follow their lead whgen it comes to the Freedom of Information Act please, they have an abysmal track record there.  It’s a simple question, who wwere the £10,695.34 ACPO Membership Feesw paid for and why.  Why did this money come out of your account and not the Chief Constable, it’s not like you are a Chief Police Officer is it?  You’re a Police and Crime Commissioner, something totally different.

It’s Wednesday today, if I don’t have a response by the end of the week Internal Review and Information Commissioner will surely follow.

I thank you, obliged.

ADDENDUM

 

Here is the oath sworn and signed by Ms Nulligan after her re-election.  It does say something about ‘transparency’ in there somewhere

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Purdah vs FOIA

Reading Time: < 1 minuteYes, that old chestnut.

Personally, I confess, I did not know which should or would apply in the run-up to an election, so I phoned a friend.  It was not long before an answer was forthcoming.

https://twitter.com/campaignfoi/status/72240647640541184

I turned to page 7, as suggested, and this is what it says”

FOI requests

9. Requests which would normally be covered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) must be handled in accordance with the requirements of the Act, and deadlines set therein. Where the application of the public interest balance requires more time, that is permitted under the Act but there is no general power to defer a decision.

10. Where a request needs to be considered under FOIA it will not normally be possible to get back to the Parliamentary candidate, or others within 24 hours and he or she should be advised of this as they may wish to submit a request more in line with paragraph 8 above.

Whilst the two paragraphs above are Cabinet Office guidance in relation to a General Election, surely the general principles must hold true for all and any elections.

If that is true then officials such as Police and Crime Commissioners should not be crying “Purdah, can’t do that” in relation to perfectly reasonable Freedom of Information requests.

I, for one, will most certainly be quoting the above Cabinet Office Guidance if any of my requests are declined on the grounds of Purdah, and I hope that you would all do the same. 

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Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Reading Time: < 1 minuteNope, nothing to do with Messrs Simon and Garfunkel, but a return to the Dark Ages brought about solely by the media, quelle surprise.

The very same media that love to bleat about Police Forces and Police Officers not doing their jobs are excelling at preventing them from doing so.

In league with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) a number of Freedom of Information requests have been made to establish the number of prosecutions or Fixed Penalties there have been for smoking in a vehicle in the presence of a child.

https://twitter.com/from_paddington/status/706792091234525185

Now this is most definitely illegal, quite clearly wrong and I most certainly don’t condone it (neither do I smoke, anywhere) but I do believe that following on from the government onslaughts, aided and abetted by Sir Tom, the Police Service of our land has much better things to do than chase offenders for smoking in their cars.  If they happen upon it hen of course I would expect them to deal with it appropriately, but I certainly won’t lose too much sleep worrying about why they are not being proactive on the problem.

Having (allegedly) dispensed with Targets and League Tables the Telegraph and ASH are seeking to compile them once more by tying up resources with FOI requests that would be better deemed Vexatious.

Catch someone smoking in their car or catch (or even deter) someone carrying a knife, a burglar, someone driving dangerously, the list goes on.  Which is prefeable given restricted resources.  Which should be our priority, as prioritise we must?

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Something Smells Rotten In Mrs May’s Empire

Reading Time: 2 minutesAt the back end of last year you will no doubt recall I had cause to think that Tom Winsor had dsisappeared, that post is here.

 

I have now had my reply from the Home Office asking for a copy of all the documents relating to FOI request 18164/2011.

No thanks to the Home Office I have found an unedited version of that response, it reads like this;

Dear Mr Tompsett,
Thank you for your e-mail of 22 March 2011, in which you ask for information regarding the Independent Review of Remuneration and Conditions of Service for Police Officers and Staff. Your request has been handled as a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
You asked specifically for:
‘…how much Tom Winsor has either been paid or will be paid to carry out his review on remuneration and conditions of service for police officers and staff in England and Wales?
In relation to this review, can you please also inform me the amount of money paid or being paid to Sir Edward Crew and Professor Richard Disney for their work in participating with Tom Winsor?’
I am able to disclose the following information:
The law firm White and Case, at which Tom Winsor is a partner, will receive £300 per day for his services. Sir Edward Crew, who is the review’s Policing Advisor, will also receive £300 per day for his services.
Richard Disney is Professor of labour market economics at the University of Nottingham. The university has received £16,000 for his report.
In keeping with the Freedom of Information Act, we assume that all information can be released to the public unless it is exempt. In line with normal practice we are therefore releasing the information which you requested via the Home Office website.

So, a few porkies from the Home Office then, they only made an edited version available on their website

Magically no mention of Tom Winsor at all, despite the wording of the original request;

‘…how much Tom Winsor has either been paid or will be paid to carry out his review on remuneration and conditions of service for police officers and staff in England and Wales?

Now it has got worse, my reply from the Home Office says this;

We have searched our records and can confirm that the information sought with respect to
CR18164 is no longer available.

The Home Office does not retain FOI case files for an indefinite period of time. Records of FOI
cases are kept for two years after the last recorded action on the case. The last recorded
action on CR 18164 was in March 2011.

Inaccurate, as they replied in May 2011, but hey what’s a couple of months between friends?

Tom Winsor has disappeared, White and Case have disappeared and now the documentation relating to previuous FOI requests has disappeared.  A two year retention policy does not seem very long compared to the length of time other public sector organisations are required to keep documents for.

Maybe a less cynical person can put me out of my misery.

 

Happy New Year to you all.

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Tom Winsor Has Completely Disappeared

Reading Time: 2 minutesWell, that’s not strictly true, but he has been expunged from the record.

After Friday’s blog and the shitstorm it invoked about the apparent lack of transparency surronding a certain man and his Indepent Review, I dug a little deeper and went into the Home Office Disclosure Log to make sure the original request hadn’t ‘disappeared’.

Well it hasn’t.

But Tom Winsor and White & Case have disappeared.

The original response to Freedom of Information Request dated 20th May 2011 said this

You asked specifically for:
‘…how much Tom Winsor has either been paid or will be paid to carry out his review on remuneration and conditions of service for police officers and staff in England and Wales?
In relation to this review, can you please also inform me the amount of money paid or being paid to Sir Edward Crew and Professor Richard Disney for their work in participating with Tom Winsor?’

The Home Office response to this request said this

I am able to disclose the following information:
The law firm White and Case, at which Tom Winsor is a partner, will receive £300 per day for his services. Sir Edward Crew, who is the review’s Policing Advisor, will also receive £300 per day for his services.
Richard Disney is Professor of labour market economics at the University of Nottingham. The university has received £16,000 for his report.

When I go to the Home Office Disclosure Log for CR18164 I find his

Payments to Richard Disney for review on remuneration and conditions of service for police officers and staff in England and Wales

This says

18164
We have received a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for the following:

The amount of money paid or being paid to Professor Richard Disney for hiw work in participating with Tom Winsor

We released the following information on 20 May 2011.

Richard Disney is Professor of labour market economics at the University of Nottingham. The university has received £16,000 for his report.

So Tom Winsor and Sir Edward Crewe have completely disappeared from the request and response, a cynical person might think there’s something dodgy going on.

 ADDENDUM

I have today requested full details of the above FOI request via the Freedom of Information Act.  I await their response.

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Freedom of Information – I Have Met My Match

Reading Time: 2 minutesI recently contacted Northamptonshire Police with a Freedom of Information Request, asking how many Police Stations had closed in the last 5 years, and how many were envisaged to close in the coming 5 years.

They answered the 1st bit perfectly and for that I thank them.

When it came to the second bit, they were a bit more cagey.

They issued me with a Refusal Notice on the following grounds;

Disclosure of information, which would be likely to prejudice the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders or the administration of justice.

Section 43 – Commercial Interests. Disclosure of this information would breach the commercial interests of the company if its disclosure under this act would, or would be likely to, prejudice commercial interests of any person.

Law enforcement tactics would be compromised which would hinder the prevention or detection of crime and impact on police resources and may increase the commission of crime. Disclosure would enable the geographic mapping of our resources throughout the county.

Interests of third parties – Third party interests might be jeopardised by release of information relating to sensitive commercial information held about business, financial, contractual or operational issues.

Thus, although this information may be interesting to the public I do not see how its release can benefit the community at large. Having weighed up the argument, I feel the balance lies in withholding this information in order to protect those working on the strategy and staff affected by its outcome.

Well it takes more than that to put me off, so I set about finding the information elsewhere’

A quick search on my old friend Google very quickly came up with (amongst others)

Furious reaction from MP as police station closure proposals are revealed

Northamptonshire Police to close stations’ public enquiries desks

Labour warns against closure of police stations in Northamptonshire

Corby police station closure plan causes concern

It seems it’s OK for the PCC and the Chief Constable to discuss planned Police Station closures with the Press but plebs such as myself must be kept in the dark and fed bullshit, the old Mushroom Syndrome.

Needless to say, when their staff get back to work on Monday they will find my Appeal against their Refusal waiting.

 

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