Discomfort at MPS Directorate of Professional Standards? Surely Not

On 24th July 2012 I asked the following questions of the MPS;

1) Please supply me with copies of all papers i.e. minutes of
meetings etc relating to the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson and
Assistant Commissioner John Yates, insomuch as those papers relate
to discussions about any ‘Golden Handshake’ deal in relation to
both or either of them.

2) How many senior officers in the Met, current or resigned/retired
above the rank of Chief Inspector are subject to such, similar,
‘Gagging Orders’ or similar agreements? For the avoidance of doubt
I am specifically NOT requesting names or circumstances, just a
total number, broken down by rank if that is possible.

On 6th August this prompted the following response;

Q1) Could you please clarify the term ‘Golden Handshake’?
Q2) Could you please clarify the term ‘Gagging Order’?
Q2) Over what time period does this question relate to?

Because I’m a helpful, co-operative little soul I answered those 3 questions thus (also on 6th August);

Q1) Could you please clarify the term ‘Golden Handshake’? – Any
amount of money agreed as payment in exchange for Early Retirement
etc

Q2) Could you please clarify the term ‘Gagging Order’? – Any
agreement voluntary or imposed by a Court not to divulge the terms
of any settlement etc

Q3) Over what time period does this question relate to? – How many
are ‘Currently’ in place i.e. effective now.

Not too much scope for ambiguity surely?

On 17th September I received the following response;

In Q1 you ask
Please supply me with copies of all papers i.e. minutes of meetings etc
relating to the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant
Commissioner John Yates, insomuch as those papers relate to discussions
about any ‘Golden Handshake’ deal in relation to both or either of them.
NB ‘ Golden Handshake’ any amount of money agreed as payment in exchange
for Early Retirement etc.
The MPS response is:
The searches failed to locate any information relevant to your request,
therefore the information you have requested is not held by the MPS.
Upon leaving the MPS, individuals may have entered into discussions with
the Metropolitan Police Authority regarding their contractual position and
recompense.
The MPA has been replaced by Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime
(MOPAC).

In Q2 you ask
How many senior officers in the Met, current or resigned/retired above the
rank of Chief Inspector are currently subject to such, similar, ‘Gagging
Orders’ or similar agreements?
NB ‘Gagging Order’ any agreement voluntary or imposed by a Court not to
divulge the terms of any settlement etc.
The MPS response is:
In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act), this
response represents a Refusal Notice for this particular question under
Section 17(1).

Please see the legal annex for the sections of the Act that are referred
to in this letter.

The Metropolitan Police Service neither confirms nor denies that it holds
the information you requested as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Act
does not apply by virtue of the following exemption:

Section 40(5) – Personal Information / Absolute Exemption

A Freedom of Information Act request is not a private transaction.
Both the request itself and any information disclosed, are considered
suitable for open publication.
This is because under Freedom of Information any information disclosed is
released into the wider public domain, effectively to the world, not just
to an individual.

To confirm or deny whether personal information exists in response to your
request could publicly reveal information about an individual or
individuals, thereby breaching the right to privacy afforded to persons
under the Data Protection Act 1998.
When confirming or denying that information is held would breach an
individual’s rights under the Data Protection Act 1998, Section 40(5)
becomes an absolute exemption, and there is no requirement for me to
provide evidence of the prejudice that would occur, or to conduct a public
interest test.

Please note this notice does not confirm or deny that the MPS holds the
information that you have requested.

So, armed with this very helpful reply I requested that the Met carried out a Review of their decision not to even answer the questions.  That was on 17th September, and the Met has 20 Working Days under FOI legislation to conduct that Review.

It’s now Mid-Late March and guess what?  I’m still waiting for the result of the Review.

You will not be surprised to learn that the matter is now residing with the Information Commissioner.  Let’s hope he’s more communicative than the Met.  Can one assume from their lack of action that they have something to hide?  Are there senior officers subject to Gagging Orders?  What is a Gagging Order?  Who knows but I think we now have the absolute right to draw whatever assumptions we choose to from their woefully inadequate response.

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