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  • Police watchdog has its collar felt

    Posted on June 17th, 2010 admin No comments
    Police search for a response to an IPCC FoI request

    Police search for a response to an IPCC FoI request

    I suppose there is a certain irony involved in the fact that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) should manage to get in trouble itself over the tardy way it responds to Freedom of Information requests.

    Those of you who look at WhatDoTheyKnow will be unsurprised at the organisations downfall as they have been increasingly on the receiving end of on-line complaints from requestors.

    Now the Information Commissioner has taken action and issued an Enforcement Notice against the organisation.

    Basically the IPCC has to get its ship in order by the end of September or risk being in Contempt of Court. Some people might say that although the IPCC is undoubtedly bad there are other contenders for the crown of Public Authority That Shows the Most Contempt for FoI award. Your suggestions please. Is this an example of the Information Commissioner’s much heralded ‘get tough’ approach?

    The Commissioner had a total of nine complaints about the IPCC on his desk when he took action and the IPCC admitted it was dealing with 72 requests – of which 69 were out of time.

    One enterprising applicant got so annoyed they asked the IPCC for details of its communication with the Information Commissioner’s office and uncovered an illuminating letter which you can see [IPCC letter]. The main points within it are:

    • The IPCC claims FoI requests levels have risen 40% - although other data shows the levels of requests in 2009 (234) at less than half the level they were in 2005 (572),
    • They receive an average of 21 FoI requests every month,
    • It still has one request dating back to May 15, 2009,
    • The IPCC informed the Commissioner that September was the time by which it hopes to have everything up and running smoothly again,
    • Three new staff have been recruited – two temps and one permanent – bringing the total in the team to four,
    • Staff have a target of dealing with two FoI requests and three subject access requests every week,
    • At the moment the team attempts to deal with one request from the backlog and one fresh request although the Commissioner has told them to deal with the backlog separately rather than get them all mixed together.

    In the Commissioner’s press release on the issue Graham Smith, Deputy Commissioner, said: “I am concerned that the IPCC has denied people access to information by repeatedly failing to respond to requests in line with the Act.

    “The FOIA gives individuals important rights to access information held by public authorities and despite the current strain on resources all public authorities must remember their responsibilities under the Act.

    “This Enforcement Notice serves as a strong signal to all public authorities that failure to respond is unacceptable. I am pleased that the IPCC reported the difficulties it was facing to us and hope that it will treat this notice with the urgency it requires by putting in place the necessary steps to answer all FOI requests in compliance with the Act.”