I’m feeling a little like Richard III at Bosworth Field. I am beaten. The #FOI Meister would like to announce his retirement from the field of combat.
The Home Office and 43 Police Services/Constabularies/Forces have, together, defeated me.
From this day onwards I shall no longer be probing the Home Office, MOPAC and the Police Services of England and Wales with Freedom of Information Act requests. I shall keep my account open and I shall continue to submit the odd request for my own benefit, and I’ll certainly consider submitting the occasional request for The Usual Suspects (you know who you are).
It seems to me that there is an unspoken policy in place to make obtaining information as difficult as possible. The Home Office are quite possibly the worst offenders of the lot in this respect. There is absolutely no need to wait for the permitted 20 days to expire and then release the information within minutes of being prodded, in an attempt to remind them that their time is up. That information has to be already there, the reply written, just waiting for the reminder.
There is absolutely no reason why they should wait for the 20 days to expire and then issue a Refusal Letter. If they are going to refuse the request I’m pretty damn sure that they know that before the time limit is reached.
If you have read my recent blogs on RIPA you will be familiar with the tactics employed by certain Police Services to avoid answering questions they are not comfortable with.
The Freedom of Information Act has been on the statute books for 13 years this year and it is about time that the relevant public authorities accepted this and dealt with requests honourably. Whether they like the Act or not, it’s there. We’ve all been there, we know what the answer is, if there’s something you don’t want made public, make sure it doesn’t exist. Not exactly in the spirit of the Act but I’m sure you understand. Having said that, once the request comes in, it should be dealt with properly. The Home Office is part of central government. Parliament drew up and passed the Freedom of Information Act and, subsequently, various government departments, and other public authorities are exhausting themselves in an attempt to get round it.
The various indemnities and exemptions provided by the Act are there for a good reason, and I’m the last person who would want to attempt to breach that (honestly), but when I see contemptuous Refusals to requests that in no way breach Personal Information, State Secrets or Police Methodology this tells me that there is a Conspiracy afoot. A Conspiracy to stop good, honest folk getting to the truth.
I have appealed against my last 4 RIPA requests, because I do not, and cannot, accept the reasons for Refusal.
I have written to the Information Commissioner complaining about the attitude of Sussex Police in relation to a totally non-contentious FOI request that they have acknowledged receipt of. It is still awaiting any kind of response since July 2012. A little longer than 20 days I’m sure you will agree. The Information Commissioner has written to them pointing out how they should be dealing with FOI requests and giving them a 10 day ultimatum to reply to me. He has kindly forwarded to me a copy of his letter to them together with advice as to what to do next if they still don’t respond in time.
I cannot possibly do that with all of the FOI requests I have had refused. I do not have enough years left on this planet to settle them all.
So there you have it, ‘They Have Won’ I shall continue to monitor the outstanding issues, and after that, my requests will be few and surgical. My quill is worn down to a mere stub with it all. I shall buy a new quill and continue to rant and blog, but #FOI have I none.
It’s been fun, I hope you have enjoyed them.
À la prochaine