Last Updated on November 27, 2015 by RetiredAndAngry
You’ll have to wait just a little longer to find out, sorry.
I’ve been more successful this year, I haven’t received anywhere near as many Refusals to my Freedom of Information Requests, even the Home Office, whilst far from perfect, have definitely improved, although I’m still awaiting their response to my request regarding The a Curious Case of the Disappearing Mr Winsor, but you can be assured if I ever get an answer I will share it with you.
In the matter of Police Station closures I have written to all 43 Police Forces in England and Wales, and asked them all the same 2 questions
1). How many Police Stations or Front Countersh have closed since May 2010?
2). How many Police Stations or Front Counters are envisaged to close within the next 5 tears?
To date I have received responses from slightly more than two thirds of the 43. I have received just one Refusal notice.
You may find my two questions quite innocuous, they’re certainly not intended to cause angst, they are intended to inform the public of the scale of the Tory cuts in real terms bricks and mortar, the family silver.
As I said, I had one Refusal Notice, in a reply from Northamptonshire Police. They answered Question 1, but less enthusiastic about Question 2. The reasons quoted were these;
” The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner which oversees the estates are not obliged to provide the information you have requested under the Freedom of Information Act. In accordance with the Act, this reply represents a Refusal Notice for this particular request.
Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 requires Northamptonshire Police, when refusing to provide such information (because the information is exempt within the provisions of the Act) to provide you, the applicant, with a Notice which:
a) states the fact that an exemption has been applied
b) specifies the exemption in question, and
c) states why the exemption applies (if that would not otherwise be apparent)
The exemptions applicable to the information you have requested are as follows:-
Section 31 (a), (b) and (c) – Law Enforcement (Qualified and Prejudice-based)
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.
This is a qualified and class-based exemption . This means that the legislators, when writing this piece of legislation, considered that the release of this type of information would cause harm to either the authority or individuals involved. Therefore the authority does not need to carry out a harm test for this exemption.
The Business Case/Feasibility document is in use and forming Northamptonshire current strategy at this moment in time. The document is being used to form our current thinking and it would not be appropriate to release a working document at this time as it would affect those working on this strategy. The document is commercially sensitive to our organisations / landowners and the consultants involved. The document also contains operational information in regards to our estate and the occupants. The review is a review of the whole estate. It also includes a review of the Fire Service estate. This document was preceded by an options paper which was the basis to carrying out this estate review.
Public Interest Test – Section 31
Factors favouring disclosure
By disclosing the information, the public would be aware of where their public funds are spent and there would be better awareness which may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public.
Factors favouring non-disclosure
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.
Public Interest Test – Section 43
Factors favouring disclosure
Accountability – the public should be aware of how funds are utilised that reflect the effectiveness and efficiency of the Force
Factors favouring non-disclosure
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.
The Police Service is charged with the prevention and detection of crime and they would not divulge information that could undermine this important role. There is no decision in respect of the disposal or otherwise of the current estate and release of information contained in the document would cause unfounded speculation and distress to those connected with the decision making. The public interest test is centered on whether this information should be released to the world so that any person can view this information not just you as the requestor. 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.
I trust you find this information to be satisfactory but if you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact me.”
Not wanting to roll over and give in I took to Google, and found several articles in their local press where the PCC and/or Chief Constable had briefed the local press about planned closures, but they couldn’t tell me because I might be a criminal or I might tell a criminal.
On the basis that some or all of the information was freely available in the media I immediately asked them yo conduct an official Review of my request and their response.
The reply to this was priceless;
“Dear Mr Wright
With regards to your reply, I have made further enquiries with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire as they have the responsibility for managing the Northamptonshire Police estate. They are still not in a position to release information as outlined below in the exemptions I have already applied, and which remain the case as of today”
I can only assume that Northamptonshire are feeling a little prickly as their PCC is apparently being investigated by the IPCC for allegedly disclosing information regarding an investigation to a third party.
I have now demanded that they conduct a proper Review under the Act, but for all the above reasons I have no hesitation in awarding the 2015 Jobsworth Award to Northamptonshire Police Freedom of Information and Data Protection Team