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  • What happened to the Duty to Assist?

    Posted on November 16th, 2009 admin No comments
    A case worse than the missing pineapple chunks.

    A case worse than the missing pineapple chunks.

    What would Fletch have to say about this then? As we all know under FoI legislation the person responding to the question has a duty to assist the applicant.

    A long time ago I put in a request with the Home Office about items being left outside the perimeter fence of Ford open Prison, in Sussex, which the inmates then went and collected.

    These “items” were reported to be phones, alcohol and drugs – all things that inmates are not supposed to have access while at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

    I asked for any Security Information Reports related to such finds and this request was communicated to the prison by the Home Office.

    It liaised with the prison and came up with a copy of the answer for me but before it was sent out the prison was given a chance to comment.

    The e-mail, which you can see at the bottom of this post, says: “Just to clarify the point. There were no Security Information Reports relating to items left outside for collection.

    “This is not to say that we did not have any information about items left outside the perimeter. This is an ongoing issue that is continually monitored.

    “If a member of staff saw a suspicious item they would check it and take it to our Security department.

    “They would not necessarily submit an SIR. This part does not necessarily need to be disclosed.

    I love this last sentence: “This part does not necessarily need to be disclosed.” How does that sentiment line up with the new era of openness heralded by the Freedom of Information Act, or should I say the Not Necessarily Need to Be Disclosed Act.

    The document has been sent to me by the MoJ some three years after my initial request to the department for the discussions around my requests to be disclosed.

    It was part of my meta-request and it appears after £100,000 of legal advice the MoJ has now completely backed down and agreed to give me all the information I wanted. I am wading through all the paperwork but I can see why they were so reluctant to release it now.


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