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  • Not just any hold-up…this is an ICO hold-up

    Posted on May 5th, 2009 admin No comments
    Gun crime reports will now be disclosed

    Gun crime reports will now be disclosed

    The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has at last dealt with the oldest appeal on its desks - a case which it took just under FOUR years to resolve.

    On January 12, 2005, an applicant asked West Yorkshire Police for the numbers of illegal firearms the force had seized in the last five years. The requester also asked: “Could I have copies of any reports prepared by, or received by West Yorkshire Police on the issue of gun crime or gun-related crime in the region or which include substantial reference to those issues over the same time period.”

    Some information was provided to the applicant but when access to the reports was not forthcoming an appeal was lodged with the ICO on April 29, 2005.

    The appeal notice stated that the reports were provided to the applicant in a redacted form but this didn’t satisfy the requestor. The redacted sections were justified by the police by the use of: Section 30 (Criminal Investigations), Section 38 (Health and Safety), Section 40 (Personal Information) and Section 41 (Information Provided in Confidence).

    A ruling was made by the ICO in a decision notice [FS5073382] which was dated March 16, 2009 - three years and eleven months after the appeal was lodged.

    It states that the redactions due to S.41 were incorrectly applied. The ICO ruled that although some of the information came from third parties it was the police that created the reports, even if some of the conclusions were based on the third party evidence. The ICO stated the exemption was not engaged because the information was not obtained from another party.

    In relation to S.30 the ICO ruled there were two types of information - some that related to specific crimes and investigations and secondly data and reports which are an amalgamation of individual crimes. He ruled that the specific crime information was covered by the exemption and the public interest was in favour of the information being withheld. However, he said the more general information was not covered by S.30.

    The decision notice says: “the Commissioner considers that the information which relates to patterns of criminal activity in geographical areas, patterns of crime occurrence, intelligence and analysis is not information relating to any specific investigation and therefore cannot be exempt under section 30(1).”

    West Yorkshire Police had used S.40 and S.38 to protect the names of people in the report saying that to disclose them would be a breach of their personal data and would expose them to risk. The ICO agreed that it was personal data so didn’t then go on to consider if S.38 had been engaged on not.

    The result of four years of waiting was that a total of 47 pieces from the six documents which had been redacted will now have to be disclosed to the applicant.

  • The Oldest Swinger in Town

    Posted on March 9th, 2009 admin No comments
    The subject of delays within the Information Commissioner’s Office have been a hot topic in recent years. Some believe that the ICO is deliberately being underfunded in an attempt to neuter the power of the Freedom of Information Act.
     gun
      Many requesters and public authorities complain that the slow rate at which decisions are issued only aggravates the problem as practitioners are left in limbo not knowing what the Commissioner’s view is on important subjects. FoI News put in its own request to the Information Commissioner to find out which appeal had been sitting on his desk for the longest period of time. 

    …….On January 12, 2005, less than two weeks after the Act came into force somebody wrote to West Yorkshire Police asking for the numbers of illegal firearms the force had seized in the last five years. The requester also asked: “Could I have copies of any reports prepared by, or received by West Yorkshire Police on the issue of gun crime or gun-related crime in the region or which include substantial reference to those issues over the same time period.”

    The police provided the requester with a table showing the numbers of weapons it had confiscated and this was sent through on February 1, 2005. However, there was a clash over the second part of the request relating to the reports held by the police. It refused to hand them over citing four exemptions: Section 30 (Criminal Investigations), Section 31 (Law Enforcement), Section 38 (Health and Safety) and Section 41 (Information Provided in Confidence).

    An appeal was lodged by the applicant which was considered by the police force where the refusal decision was upheld. This appeal decision was communicated to the applicant on April 12, 2005.

     The applicant then e-mailed an appeal to the Information Commissioner on April 29, 2005 and staff at the ICO logged it officially on May 14, 2005. What has happened to the appeal over the last three years and nine months is something of a mystery.

    In a letter of October 2008 the ICO says: “By way of additional information, I have been advised that the case is currently waiting for the decision notice that has been prepared by the FoI case officer to be ‘signed off’ by a senior member of staff.” The ICO didn’t reveal the name of the applicant – exempt from disclosure under Section 40(2) of the Act.

    West Yorkshire Police said it did not want to comment on the matter but confirmed it was still awaiting a decision and the matter had not been resolved informally.

    Rest assured when a decision is forth-coming we will let you know about it and which complaint has replaced it as the ICO’s dust-gathering champion.