Last updated on August 15th, 2023 at 05:56 pmReading Time: 5 minutes
Some Dots Just Refuse To Join Up, or, to be more precise, some people within the Police Service will do anything to ensure that the dots cannot be joined up. Following on from my previous post;
For over a year I have been arguing with firstly the Met and then the Information Commissioner over the Met’s refusal to release ALL of the information I had requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
My request was this
“Could you please supply me with details of ALL Attempted Murders
and Murders within the MPD for the 2019/20 Financial Year (or the
most recent 12 months if that is easier) For each offence please include Borough, Gender, Age and Ethnic
Appearance of both Victim and Suspect.
If it is possible could this info please be provided as an EXCEL
workbook or equivalent?”
Call me old-fashioned but anybody who knows CRIS will know that this is not a question that will take very long to answer once you can get onto the system.
Well it took the Met about 3 months before I got any kind of reply. Even then I did not get my reply until it had been passed by a ‘High Level Decision Maker‘ whatever one of those looks like. That’s when I knew I was in for a rough ride.
To be fair to the Met they did provide me with almost all of the data I had asked for, but they declined to link Victims with Suspects for each offence. i.e. for each offence they declined to say that a young black/white/Asian kid etc had been killed by a young black/white/Asian kid.
Their grounds for a Partial Refusal (i.e.that data linking suspect to victims) ran to 5 (yes FIVE) pages, but the essence of it can be captured here;
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.
The MPS has a statutory role in establishing whether any person has failed to comply with the law. It also, in reviewing police action in specific cases, performs a key role in ascertaining whether any person is responsible for any conduct which is improper.
The release of police information that is linked to a criminal investigation would be likely to adversely impact upon the ability of the MPS to obtain information in connection with current or future investigations and/or inquiries. This would occur because those involved directly or indirectly in the investigation, would not expect the MPS to make this information available under the Freedom of Information Act.
Over time, the perceived breach of trust that would result from the release of information of this nature, would be likely to adversely affect the ability of the police to obtain information in connection with future investigations/inquiries. This would be contrary to the public interest.
It hasn’t taken me very long into the New Year to re-read this response in its entirety, and the response of the Information Commissioner, and form the opinion that this is a load of old bollocks. Those of you that know me will well know that I would never wish to undermine or compromise an ongoing investigation into anything, never mind Murder.
I genuinely don’t believe that it would. Witness Appeals etc often contain far more information than I requested, and are often accompanied by a CCTV image or artist’s impression of the suspect(s).
In a busy South London Borough does it really risk identifying any individual to describe them as male, 13-14 years of ******** ethnic appearance? Really?
Then we have the work of art that is the Information Commissioner’s response. If anything he has gone in even harder than the Met in his refusal to allow my appeal. Having taken advice from the Met, the crux of his knock-back is to rely on Section 30 (1) (a) of the FOIA which states;
“Information held by a public authority is exempt information if it has at any time been held by the authority for the purposes of:
(a) any investigation which the public authority has a duty to conduct with a view to it being ascertained-
(i) whether a person should be charged with an offence” The phrase “at any time” means that information can be exempt under section 30(1) if it relates to an ongoing, closed or abandoned investigation.“
Basically giving the Met a Get Out of Jail Free Card for any request that relates to recorded crimes. Interestingly they did not rely on that to withold ALL of the information, just the descriptions of Victim and Suspect. I wonder why?
In order to assist the Information Commissioner to come to his decision the Met helpfully offered up the following advice/opinion;
“The held information relates to relatively recent attempted murders between 01/04/2019 to 31/03/2020 … which are low numbers whereby the cases could still be ongoing and not closed. Full disclosure could potentially lead to the identification of either suspects, victims or even witnesses”………the release of the information requested could lead to the identification or misidentification of those persons linked to attempted murders, placing these persons at risk. The release of any information that is likely to put individuals at risk of harm and prejudice the ability of the MPS to both prevent and detect crime is unlikely to be in the public interest……………The review considers that there is a real risk to individuals particularly where suspect data has been linked to victim data. To provide a hypothetical example, if a gang member had attempted to murder an associate, the information … requested (Borough, Gender, Age and Ethnic Appearance of both Victim and Suspect) would be useful to the suspect to determine if the matter had been reported to police by the victim and this would place the victim at further risk of attack”.
So there you have it ladies and gents. The Met really don’t want those dots joined up, because to do so would put untold numbers of people at risk of physical harm. I did seriously consider going to Tribunal over what I see as a highly prejudiced response to an FOIA request, but over a year later much has happened and I no longer have the strength to devote to holding the Met to account.
I DO NOT accept their reasons for Refusal, nor do I accept the Information Commissioner’s reasoning but but if the Met don’t want the residents of London to have the full picture of what is happening on their streets there is no longer very much I can do about that, I’ll leave it in the hands of Dame Cressida and Sadiq Khan to sort out.
For those that haven’t seen my original post on the subject, you can find it here. It is quite clear which section of the community provides the biggest numbers of Victims AND Suspects, but the Met doesn’t want us to know the full scale of the problem