The Departments of Professional Standards and RIPA #TheRestIsSilence

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about Police, Social Media and RIPA, and in that blog I wrote that I had sent off Freedom of Information Act requests to 4 Police Forces about their use of RIPA, if any, in relation to Police Officers and Social Media.

To remind you; I asked 4 Police Forces the following questions;

1) Can you please tell me for the year 2011, how many RIPA
applications were made by members of your Force in relation to
Police Officers’ use of Social Media or e-mail?

2) Can you please tell me for the year 2011 what were the relevant
offences or Discipline Regulations for these applications?

3) For the year 2011 what was the result of these applications? How
many officers were either prosecuted or disciplined?

4) For the year 2011, how many such applications (as above) were
refused and on what grounds?

The time has come the walrus said to name and shame those 4 Police Forces and unleash their replies on the world of Social Media.

The easiest one to deal with 1st is Dorsetshire Constabulary.  They should have provided me with a response by 12th December.  It is now the last day of the year and I haven’t heard a single word from them since their original acknowledgement of receiving my request.  Accordingly I have today written to Dorset Police requesting an Internal Review of their handling of my request.  Breath-Holding commence.

West Midlands came next, creeping in the day before the date my response was due (i.e. 19 out of 20 days had elapsed) with a REFUSAL to answer the questions.

Their full response and reasons given can be found here, but basically;

West Midlands Police will neither confirm nor deny the existence of any relevant data by virtue of the following exemptions

Section 23(5)

Section 44(2)

Section 30(3)

Section 31(3)

Section 40(5)

It also contains the following interesting paragraph;

Overall Harm

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) is often a complex piece of legislation to interpret.  The RIPA Act is a regulatory framework around a range of investigatory powers to ensure the powers are used lawfully and in a way that is compatible with the European Conviction on Human rights.  It also requires, in particular, those authorising the use of covert techniques to give proper consideration to whether their use is necessary and proportionate. A legislative scrutiny framework already
exists for RIPA activity: Police surveillance activity is subject to annual inspection by the Interception of Communications Commissioners Office (IOCCO) and Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC).  These inspections assess each constabulary’s compliance with the legislation and a full report is submitted to the Prime Minister  containing statistical information.

So, West Midlands Police don’t want to play.

On the same day I was excited to receive a response from Dyfed-Powys Police, also 19 out of 20 days elapsed.  Their full response can be read here,

This one had a personal letter attached, ooh I was so excited, I read it avidly;

The Dyfed Powys Police Service can neither confirm nor deny that it holds the information you requested as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply, by virtue of the following exemptions:

 

Section 23(5) Information supplied by, or concerning, certain Security bodies

Section 30(3) Investigations and Proceedings conducted by Public Authorities

Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

Section 40(5) Personal Information

Section 44(2) Information covered by Prohibitions on Disclosure

Disappointed I read on;

Overall Harm for the Neither Confirm nor Deny (NCND)

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) is often a complex piece of legislation to interpret. The RIPA Act is a regulatory framework around a range of investigatory powers to ensure the powers are used lawfully and in a way that is compatible with the European Conviction on Human Rights. It also requires, in particular, those authorising the use of covert techniques to give proper consideration to whether their use is necessary and proportionate. A legislative scrutiny framework already
exists for RIPA activity: Police surveillance activity is subject to annual inspection by the Interception of Communications Commissioners Office (IOCCO) and Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC). These inspections assess each constabulary’s compliance with the legislation and a full report is submitted to the Prime Minister containing statistical information.

Is this just me being cynical or is this beginning to sound familiar?

So, Dyfed-Powys don’t want to play either.

Finally, I got a delayed response from the Met.  They had originally granted themselves a unilateral extension while their senior management considered their response (honestly).  When their response finally arrived it consisted of………you guessed it, a REFUSAL to answer.  Their full response and the reasons given can be found here.

I read through, thoroughly disappointed by now;

The Metropolitan Police Service can neither confirm nor deny that it holds the information you requested as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply, by virtue of the following exemptions:

Section 23(5) : Information Supplied by or concerning Security Bodies
Section 44(2) : Prohibitions on Disclosure
Section 30(3) : Investigations and Proceedings Conducted by Public Authorities
Section 40(5) : Personal Information

I’m getting quite bored with this now;

Harm Test

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) is often a complex piece of legislation to interpret.  The Act is a regulatory framework around a range of investigatory powers which is used to ensure that these powers are used lawfully and in a way that is compatible with the European Convention on Human rights.  It also requires, in particular, that those authorising the use of covert techniques must give proper consideration to whether this use is necessary and proportionate. A legislative scrutiny framework already exists for RIPA activity: Police surveillance activity is subject to annual inspection by the Interception of Communications Commissioners Office (IOCCO) and Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC).  These inspections assess each constabulary’s compliance with the legislation and a full report is submitted to the Prime Minister containing statistical information.

By now I’ve had enough.  This is quite clearly a pro-forma response, presumably formulated by ACPO and circulated to all Forces designed to head off folk like me who try to get under their skin and see what’s going on.

To receive three refusals is bad enough, but what are the odds of getting three refusals that are worded virtually identically.  Some of their so-called ‘exemptions’ aren’t even relevant.  I deliberately chose 2011 as the year in question in order to avoid current, ongoing investigations, so NOT RELEVANT.

I have asked for no personal information, only number, so NOT RELEVANT.

To confirm or deny any of the police actions around RIPA would undermine ongoing investigations, reveal policing techniques, risk the identification of individuals and the possibility of revealing involvement of any exempt bodies.

So, I apologise to all you Police Officers out there but it seems that to answer my request might reveal policing techniques that you’re not already aware of.  NOT RELEVANT.  Risk the identification of individuals?  All I asked for was numbers!  NOT RELEVANT, neither is the possibility of revealing involvement of any exempt bodies.  Just a number was required. NOT RELEVANT.

For the benefit of all the officers serving in the 4 Forces named above I can only suggest that their outright refusal to confirm or deny anything does one thing.  It demonstrates an absolute absence of TRANSPARENCY.

I, for one, can neither confirm nor deny that I think this smacks of a cunningly crafted response by some ACPO/NPIA types who don’t yet know where SM is going to take them, don’t really understand it yet and have employed their Get Out of Jail Free card so that they don’t have to answer any awkward questions from the likes of me.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “The Departments of Professional Standards and RIPA #TheRestIsSilence

  1. Pingback: The Departments of Professional Standards and RIPA – #TheRestIsUnbelievablySilent « RetiredAndAngry

  2. Pingback: RIPA and how the Police Service makes sure it’s silent | RetiredAndAngry

Please Feel Free To Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s