Shouldn’t The College of Policing Be Better Behaved?

I thought that Policing was much about Right and Wrong, making sure people do things right and prosecuting (other methods of Disposal are also available) the ones who didn’t.  Am I very wide of the mark there?  Simplistic I know, but I find it’s best to keep things simple where the College is involved.

Then, if this is right, shouldn’t the College of Policing be teaching the Police the best ways to uphold the Law and make sure everybody knows their Rights from their Wrongs?  Surely they should be a Law-Abiding Limited Company, shouldn’t they?

So, on the 15th March when I sent them a Freedom of Information request in relation to their National Undercover Policing Scrutiny Panel, they had BY LAW until 15th April to reply.  I had a response from Steven, Ethics, Integrity and Public Interest Co-ordinator acknowledging my request, and the attached letter (which actually had Steven’s full name on it, unlike his casual response) said “Your request will be considered in accordance with the legislation and you will receive a
response within the statutory timescale of 20 working days, subject to the provisions of the Act.  In the unlikely event that the College of Policing is unable to meet the 20 working day deadline, you will be informed as soon as possible and given a revised time-scale for response.

Well, as they haven’t contacted me in any way since their original acknowledgement, even though I’m expecting a Refusal Notice, I can only assume that they are flouting the law by not replying within 20 working days, or offering me an explanation as to why they can’t comply.

Have they EVER replied to anybody about anything?  I don’t see any evidence of a willingness to engage on Twitter, so why do they have an account?  Just to self-publicise without the willingness to interact?

Having perused previous FOI requests made of them they do like to try and find an Exemption to claim, anything tricky and they play the Exemption Card. So we shall see.

I would have thought that an ethical organisation would comply with the spirit of the Act and supply the information when they could, but I have to say that some of the Exemptions they have applied seem spurious at best.

Of the 26 FOI Requests made via the website I use 4 have been REFUSED, 4 are OVERDUE, and a further 4 they claim not to hold the information that was requested.  So requesters’ success rates are not very high with the College, although nowhere near as bad as the Home Office, the College could learn something there.

Law-Abiding?  Not where the Freedom of Information Act is concerned, no.

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Open Letter To The BBC

Dear BBC,

At the beginning of this year I submitted the Freedom of Information Act request to yourselves that is reproduced below together with your response.

I have to say that I was disappointed by your response, in saying that what I had requested was outside the scope of the Act, and that you have no record of the number of MPs that appear on your programmes. I was however interested in your Editorial Guidelines that state that the BBC should not be paying politicians for appearances where they express political views, and for a long time I took that at face value and assumed that you did not, therefore, pay politicians for their appearances on political programmes such as Question Time.

20 January 2014

Dear Mr Wright

Freedom of Information request – RFI 20140024

Thank you for your request to the BBC of 5th January 2014, seeking the following information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000:

“Could you please tell me for the 2012/2013 Financial Year

a) How many serving MPs have appeared in BBC TV programmes (with the exception of live News Broadcasts etc)

b) What was the total sum of money paid to serving MPs for their appearance/contribution to BBC scheduled TV and Radio programmes”

The information you have requested is out of scope of the Act. However, we are happy to explain that we do not keep a record of the numbers of MPs and so would in any case be unable to give you this information. With regard to payments to MPs, you may be interested to read the policy set out in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines, which set out the principles to which BBC employees should adhere: http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/page/guidelines-politicspractices-interviews#payment-to-mps . These state:

10.4.7

We should not normally pay MPs, or others clearly identified as representing political
parties, for appearances or other contributions to any BBC output in which they are
speaking as a member of their party or expressing political views. They can, where
appropriate, be paid a limited and realistic disturbance fee and/or any reimbursement for
genuine expenses.

10.4.8

They may be paid for contributions to non-political output, where they are appearing on the basis of their expertise outside politics or of their celebrity, and are not taking part as a member of their party or expressing political views. (See Section 10 Politics, Public Policy and Polls: 10.4.4)

Active politicians should not normally be paid for an appearance on, or contribution to, BBC News output. The extent to which a contributor is considered an active politician may be influenced in each case by a combination of factors including, for example, the type of programme or other content, the nature of the contribution, the contributor’s political activity or the capacity in which they appear. Further advice should be sought from Chief Adviser Politics

We hope you find this helpful. Please note that the information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA provides that information held by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters is only covered by the Act if it is held for ‘purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature” 1. The BBC is not required by the Act to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities; however, on this occasion we’re happy to provide the above information in response to your request.

Appeal Rights

The BBC does not offer an internal review when the information requested is not covered by the Act. If you disagree with our decision you can appeal to the Information Commissioner. Contact details are: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF telephone 01625 545 700. http://www.ico.gov.uk

Yours sincerely,

Stephanie Harris

Head of Accountability, BBC News

So, not only do you claim that you could not answer my question as you don’t record that information, but you give enquirers no Right of Appeal, but instead refer them direct to the Information Commissioner.  For your information the information Commissioner’s website (which is now located at https://ico.org.uk/) says this “You should first complain to the authority and ask it to conduct an internal review.” An Internal Review that you don’t offer.  The Information Commissioner won’t act unless one has asked you for an Internal Review, and you state that you don’t conduct Internal Reviews.  Brilliant!!

Getting back to my original request, you state “We should not normally pay MPs, or others clearly identified as representing political parties, for appearances or other contributions to any BBC output in which they are speaking as a member of their party or expressing political views. “  and  “They may be paid for contributions to non-political output, where they are appearing on the basis of their expertise outside politics or of their celebrity, and are not taking part as a member of their party or expressing political views. “

Personally I would regard This Week as a political programme, and includes political views from the participants. 

For your further information, Diane Abbott MP has declared to the  Register of Members’ Interests that she has been paid £700 by the BBC for every time that she has appeared on This Week.  In the most recent version of the 2014/15 Register (8th December 2014) she has declared that the BBC have paid her £700 on 17 separate occasions.  That equals £11,900 paid for by the BBC Trust for services the the Editorial Guidelines would indicate that she not be paid for.

Diane Abbott is not alone in this, other MPs have made similar declarations to the Register.

As I can clearly not rely on an Act of Parliament to obtain the information I require, maybe Ms Stephanie Harris, Head of Accountability, BBC News, could explain this anomaly to me or attempt to answer my original question.  I see no reason whatsoever why this issue should be protected by Journalistic Privilege, I am not requesting any names, not seeking to identify journalists sources, merely attempting to establish how the British Licence Payers’ money is being spent.  Is that too much to ask?

Yours

Alan Wright

The Balance Of Probabilities

Balance of probabilities is the standard of proof required in all civil cases (and Disciplinary Hearings). It basically means that to win you need to convince the judge/Chairperson that your case is 51% likely to be true. i.e. your story only has to be slightly more plausible than the other side’s story.

This can be contrasted with a criminal case where the standard is beyond reasonable doubt, which is very near to 100% certainty before the defendant can be found guilty.

What the hell is he blathering on about? I hear you ask.

Well he’s blathering on about Ex PC James Patrick’s series of ‘Cathartic Blogs’.  James has had a bit of ‘Unfinished Business’ and he’s now taken the opportunity to dump all that baggage, free himself from the shackles, and hopefully move on, rebuilding the lives of himself and his family.

But allow me to be mischievous for a minute and take a peek at James’ blogs;

The first one was

Withholding Evidence From Parliament

In this blog James alleges that a Senior Police Officer Suppressed Evidence On Crime Figures
The Commander of the Directorate of Professional Standards refused permission to present Parliament with evidence of the manipulation of police statistics.  Commander Gibson apparently refused James’ request to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee to provide evidence of ‘number fudging’.  Why was that do you think?

Next we have

Use of Temperature in Interviews

in which James relates how  Met Police Using Degrading Interview Techniques:
The Directorate of Professional Standards are using high temperatures and dishonesty to pressurise police officers under investigation.

“In an interview room on the 21st floor, adjacent to the entrance of the male changing rooms, me and my Federation Representative found ourselves in a box room, where the temperature exceeded 28 degrees.”  “The interviewing officers, a Constable and Sergeant from the Directorate of Professional Standards told me that there was a “heating fault which had been reported”, ”  There is a witness to this, the Federation Representative.

“Later in the year, a family member made a Freedom of Information Act request to the Met police, asking what heating faults had been reported and resolved in that room, a month either side of my interview. The Met responded, after an internal review – first having missed the statutory deadline for reply – stating that no heating faults had been reported or recorded during the entire period. This was confirmed a second time, to my legal representatives, in December 2013.”

I have read the relevant Freedom of Information request, and the Met’s response.  James’ account is accurate, they recorded no heating fault despite the assurances of the DPS officers conducting the interview.

#3 goes like this

Deliberately Witheld Disclosure

Police Whistleblower Accused Of Fraud After Discovering Witheld Documents:

Written records of management meetings, which the Met denied had taken place, were discovered and spurious accusations of dishonesty were made by officers involved after the alarm was raised.  The events contained within this blog just left me speechless, a rare occurrence I can assure you.  Did James offer to repay the money at the first opportunity having been asked so to do. Yes!!  Did he commit any wilful, dishonest act in order to bring about this over-payment?  Seemingly not.

#4

‘Pissing Off’ Superiors

Police Officer Put ‘Noses Out Of Joint’ By Exposing Sham Crime Figures:
Crime statistics whistleblower went to Parliament after a meeting in Scotland Yard in which he was told that he risked ‘pissing off’ superiors by continuing to report his concerns about the recording of sexual offences. So James risked pissing off ‘superiors’ by exposing the truth? How does that work then? Surely these so-called ‘superiors’ should be big enough and ugly enough to survive the TRUTH? Wouldn’t you think?

#5

Procurement Fraud

 Metropolitan Police Covered Up Smartwater Procurement Fraud:
Scotland Yard breached its own procurement procedures yet found itself innocent, while senior officers delivered briefings saying they were covering up potential offences by the force.  With James’ consent I have discussed this with a retired Auditor of some note. He/She more or less agrees with James’ take on the situation and points out that at the very least there is a clear Conflict of Interests, and that it is not the first time that the Met has had similar issues.

Finally;

Conflict and Intimidation

Met Police Used Scare Tactics Against Whistleblower And Family:
After he had given evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee about the manipulation of police crime figures, uniformed officers were sent to the family home to ‘rattle their cages’.  Having lodged grievances against one or more members of the DPS staff, James received this text one day “Can you let me know whether you are both ok and that you have received the email I sent you? James R and I have both tried to call you but got no reply. Simon Laurence has asked me to set up a welfare check to your home address if I don’t hear from you shortly”.

  “The Met requested that Essex officers attended my home, stating that they had tried to contact me several times, and were concerned about my welfare as there had been ‘developments’ in my working arrangements which may ‘have caused him some distress’. Uniformed officers, in a marked police vehicle, attended my home at quarter to nine in the evening, while my wife and I were watching television and our children were asleep upstairs”.

My reaction to this is short and blunt.  Please fill the Comments section below with any other instances where an officer facing Disciplinary Proceedings has been ‘fortunate’ enough to receive a Welfare Visit at his Home Address from a neighbouring Force at 9 o’clock in the evening?  Plenty of space available, fill your boots.

So, on the Balance of Probabilities, have the Met been Bang Out Of Order?  Have they pursued a Disciplinary matter diligently, or have they tried to use their power and might to wield the sledgehammer that would crack the walnut?  Don’t forget, Balance of Probabilities, not Beyond A reasonable Doubt.

I find the case proved and order that the Met pays ex PC James Patrick substantial financial compensation.

Court adjourned.

And the Melton Mowbray For 2014 Is Awarded To……The Met

I don’t have many proud days in my life, but 3rd July 1972 was one of them, I joined the Met.  16 weeks later I passed out of Henditz Training School and that was another.  In 1995 I was presented with my Long Service and Good Conduct Medal by the Commish (it should have been 1994 but the Commish’s Researcher got the dates muddled up and the whole of my intake got our medals a year late), finally in 2002 I was not only presented with my Exemplary Service Certificate but my OCU Commander had actually had it framed for me.

They were all proud days.  There have been a few others along the way, but they’re the ones I value the most.

Fast Forward, it is now 2014 and I’m ashamed to admit that I was ever in the Met.

I haven’t got the foggiest idea what my mother, wife and children think I got up to for 30 years.  Comments from Mrs Angry suggest that she believes at least some of the vitriol that abounds at the moment, but then she is a Daily Fail reader, so I suppose I should understand that.

I am not blind, naive or stupid. I know that some bad things happened.  I do not condone them, excuse them or possibly even forgive them, but I do know the scale of these wrongdoings.  One of the Commissioners bravely (?) put a figure of 250 on the number of corrupt officers in the Met.  Was he right?  I’m not completely certain, personally I would say it was less than that, but 250 out of, let’s say, 35,000 at that time.

Less than 1%

Is that too many?  Of course it is.  Put into context (I hope, but I know that some will disagree with me), what percentage of the population at large has a criminal record, or criminal inclinations?  The most recent answer to this that I could find was ;

It is estimated that at least twenty percent of the working population has a criminal record and one in three men under 30 have criminal convictions

Much, much higher than 1%.

I then came to actually be ashamed of the Metropolitan Police Service itself, as I gradually learnt more ‘stuff’ that serving officers might not necessarily get involved in, for obvious reasons..

Here are just a few examples of the MPS Arcade of Shame.

PC Keith Wallis – lied in an attempt to discredit Andrew Mitchell in the #Plebgate saga.  The long-term effect that has had is that people remember the lies and Andrew Mitchell has gained support as a result of what was seen as his unfair and vindictive treatment at the hands of the Metropolitan Police.  It was all one big conspiracy against him.  Well hopefully the full truth will come out during the Libel actions.  I do not condone the actions of Keith Wallis, not for one second, but neither do I believe that we have heard the full, true, account of what happened from Mr Mitchell.  Time will tell.

The presentation by Tessa Munt MP – I won’t labour this, I blogged about it here, but it appears that the main witness (a Police Officer) allegedly, maybe, possibly lied on oath, or was mistaken, 25 times during his prosecution evidence.  Just as worrying (or maybe even more worrying really) Ms Munt alleged this about the MPS itself

“The MPS also tampered with personnel or staff records to produce false records for the six TSG officers. In 2013, as part of disclosure in part 20 proceedings, it came to the six TSG officers’ attention that their staff records had been tampered with. In March 2010, following their acquittal by unanimous verdict at the trial at Kingston Crown court, they were told that no internal disciplinary sanctions or actions were to be brought against any of them. They have discovered, some six years later, that a false account has been created for each of them on their personnel records, illustrating that a finding of guilt was made against each of them, that “words of advice” were given to each of them in 2009 and that the complaint was substantiated.”

If this allegation is true I would suggest that it has not been achieved without some Management involvement somewhere along the line. Or maybe it simply just isn’t true.

The Ellison Report – An enquiry into allegations of corruption and other matters pertaining to the Steven Lawrence Murder Investigation.  It appears that the Met DPS did not disclose information/evidence/intelligence  that they held when all such information had been requested. Moreover in 2003 a Mass Shredding of documents pertaining to corruption within the Met allegedly took place, with no other copies supposedly available.

The Daniel Morgan Murder – Like Steven Lawrence another MPS murder investigation littered with allegations of Police Corruption and the family insisting that successive senior officers from the Met have lied to them rather than admit to corruption being a problem.  I have to say I don’t know the truthful answer, but these allegations refuse to go away and the victim’s family and the population at large deserve to hear the truth, whatever that truth may be.

James Patrick – Three strands to this one.  Firstly I asked them how much the Discipline Enquiry had cost so far, you’ll find that story here if you haven’t read it yet.  The Met answered my Freedom of Information request by saying that they couldn’t answer it because they do not routinely cost individual enquiries.  I appealed, questioned the response and got the same answer back again.  Now I have to say that when I retired in 2002 all enquiries/investigations/operations were allocated a cost code amongst other reasons in order that Management could keep tabs of the costs and decide  whether or not it was getting more expensive than it was worth.  I have spoken with officers still serving who have told me that the situation is even worse now and one has to account for absolutely everything.  In addition the Met is able to put a cost to the #Plebgate investigation and the Madeleine McCann investigation, so why not the James Patrick investigation?

Secondly we have this that James included in his blog on 24th March;

“Throughout the misconduct process it has been denied that there were any senior level discussions about me, or policy deficiencies relevant to my case. It was discovered on the 19th of March 2014 that significant material does indeed exist. On discovering this, and immediately serving it on the misconduct meeting Chair, the reaction from the MPS has been aggressive; implying that I am the person whose integrity is in question for trying to discover the truth, and threatening me with potential discipline for defending myself.”

More lying/prevarication or Fudging, but certainly not the truth it would appear.

If we go back right to the very beginning James was disciplined for Gross Misconduct – selling a book of his blogs.  An external Force (Warwickshire I believe it was) conducted a review and determined that the case amounted to no more than simple Misconduct, James was no longer facing the sack, and his Discipline Panel would be chaired by an Inspector, not a Commander.  Much different.

Finally, James discovered that a document existed that informed DPS that no policy actually existed on the writing of blogs or books by MPS officers.  Furthermore the Director of Legal Services advised that the MPS could not prevent MPS staff from writing blogs/books merely because the content was embarrassing to the MPS.  So how is that Misconduct or Gross Misconduct?  DPS knows this now but is still continuing to discipline PC Patrick. How is that ethical?

The single word ‘Vindictive’ keeps going round in my head and I can’t make it go away.

One final thought on James:-  He has tendered his resignation, presumably the Met have accepted it.  As the proceedings against him have been downgraded to Misconduct, meaning the worst that can happen to him is a written warning, why have they not saved everybody the bother and expense and just discontinued the proceedings?  Vengeance Is Mine sayeth BHH.

Gagging Orders – Finally, last year I had reason to ask the Met about so-called Gagging Orders.  One of the questions I asked them was this;

2) 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.
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.

The answer I got back was this;

Firstly:- Q2) Could you please clarify the term ‘Gagging Order’?

Then subsequently it looked like this;

Q2:  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.

Why not? What have they got to hide? Something going on or a simple denial would do the job.

I haven’t got enough years left in me to back through all of the Met’s Freedom of Information requests (between 2005 – 2010 there are over 730 PAGES of requests), but I have looked at a few, and it does seem that they either don’t answer many or sometimes don’t appear to provide a wholly accurate answer.  It is for all of the above reasons that I give them the Melton Mowbray for 2014.

Of course, if you, my reader, can think of any more reasons why the Met would qualify for this year’s Melton Mowbray please add them to the ‘Comments’ section below.  I moderate almost anything that doesn’t advertise shoes and handbags.

What is going on in the Met today is tragic, but I honestly believe that it is not too late.  This organisation I was once a proud member of can rise again, but it needs to face the truth and the reality, only then can it rebuild into its rightful place as a world leader of Police FORCES.  It really is time to stop the lying, stop avoiding the questions you really don’t want to answer and rebuild the honest and ethical way. Every time Bernard the Ostrich denies the obvious, or claims to have no knowledge, just makes that day a little bit further away.

The Criminals Have More Rights And Respect Than We Do…..

And this is how that works.

Many years ago before I retired from the Metropolitan Police Farce, one of my jobs was putting together proactive packages against prolific criminals.  These had to be meticulously researched, all intelligence correctly evaluated, and the final part of the Target Collection Plan was a Risk and/or Impact Assessment.

The reason for the last two was obviously to attempt to identify the probable outcome of our operation, any risks associated with it, including collateral intrusion, and the impact that our operation might have, for good or bad, on the local population, and, if appropriate, the subject him/herself. Included in these assessments were the Human Rights implications of the ‘Target’.

Fast Forward to 2010/11.

One Thomas P Winsor (make your own minds up what the P stands for) ably assisted by Sir Edward Crew QPM and Professor Richard Disney (love that name too) set about Winsor’s (in)famous Independent Review of Police Officer and Staff Remuneration and Conditions.  An impressive document; Part 1 consists of 326 Pages, and Part 2 a trifling 452 Pages.  Almost 800 pages in total, representing one of the most significant and controversial Reviews of our time.

So, you would think that those 778 Pages would contain a Risk or Impact Assessment somewhere, wouldn’t you?

Well you’d be wrong, and I know this because I asked the Home Office for it under the Freedom of Information Act.

1) Could you please furnish me with copies of any Risk Assessment
carried out in relation to the recommendations contained within
Part 1 of Mr Winsor’s Review

2) Could you please furnish me with copies of any Risk Assessment
carried out in relation to the recommendations contained within
Part 2 of Mr Winsor’s Review

And their answer to this was……

“By “risk assessment”, we understand you mean a formal analysis of the likelihood and consequences of specific hazards arising from the Winsor recommendations. No such formal risk assessment has been carried out in relation to the recommendations. Therefore, the Home Office does not hold the information you have requested”

So there you have it, criminals possess more rights and command more respect than the Police.

After the recent culls of Police Officers, cars, Dogs and Horses, not to mention Coastguards, Firefighters, Doctors, Nurses, Probation Officers etc etc; I would pay good money to see just one Risk/Impact Assessment. Any takers anyone? At least one ACPO officer reads my blogs that I know of, any comment?

The most comprehensive and controversial review of policing in decades, and based on poor quality research and a total lack of Risk or Impact Assessments.

To my simple mind this smells more of an arrogant government who think that there’s no point in conducting a Risk or Impact Assessment because we’re going to do it anyway, so what does it matter?

One could also argue that the Home Office, and others, have shown a reckless, cavalier, and possibly criminally negligent attitude in it’s indecent haste to implement the recommendations.

But what do I know about these things? I’m not a politician.

MPs Expenses – 2 Versions

I don’t know about you but I’ve absolutely had enough of the sleaze and expenses furore from all parties in our illustrious government, Lords and Commoners alike.

I’m also quite (well extremely actually) fed up with the constant bashing that our public services (and the Police in particular) are taking at the hands of our politicians.

With naughtiness and mischief in mind I let loose an #FOI request to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority asking the following questions;

  • Since 2008 what is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been investigated for mis-claiming Parliamentary Expenses?
  • What is the TOTAL number that have been prosecuted?
  • What is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been asked to pay back expenses previously  claimed but not prosecuted?

Quite simple one would think.  Oh no.

The reply that I got back was this;

IPSA does not hold the information that you request.IPSA began operations on 7 May 2010 and does not hold information relating to claims made or processed prior to that date.
Prior to 7 May 2010, the administration of business costs and expenses was the responsibility of the Department of Resources at the House of Commons. For information relating to claims made prior to 7 May 2010, you may wish to contact the House of Commons FOI team at the following email address:FOICommons@parliament.uk
.
Investigations that relate to business costs and expenses claimed for since May 2010 via IPSA’s Scheme are the responsibility of the Compliance Officer for IPSA, an office independent of IPSA and, for the purposes of the FOIA, a separate public authority. Details of the outcome of all investigations undertaken by the Compliance
Officer,including details of any repayments requested in relation to expenses previously claimed,are published on the Compliance Officer’s website and may be viewed via this link: http://www.parliamentarycompliance.org.uk
.
We understand that no investigations conducted by the Compliance Officer for IPSA have resulted in prosecution.Investigations that relate to claims made prior to May 2010 via the House of Commons
Department of Resources are the responsibility of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. For more information, you may wish to visit the Commissioner’s website via the following link:http://www.parliament.uk/pcs

So,apparently they don’t hold any archive material from before May 2010.

Well I bimbled on over to the Compliance Officer’s website as suggested, expecting to be absolutely inundated with data.

I dared to look up the investigations conducted by IPSA’s Compliance Officer.

For 2010 (post May obviously) I found NONE

For 2011 I found 21 in the 3rd Quarter of the year

For 2012 I found NONE.

In addition there are more comprehensive reports on investigations into Valerie Vaz and Nadine Dorries.

Just so that you don’t feel left out and frustrated I will reproduce one of the reports into an investigation chosen at random, you’ll like it;

Investigation summary
1.The Compliance Officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority carried
out an investigation into whether Ian Mearns MP was paid an amount under the MPs’ Expenses Scheme (the Scheme) that should not have been allowed.
2.The investigation was conducted in accordance with section 9(1) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 (as amended by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act2010) (PSA).
3.The investigation was initiated by the Compliance Officer, as he had reason to believe
Mr Mearns may have received funding for claims relating to a website (www.ianmearns.org.uk) that did not comply with the rules of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) as set out in the Scheme.
4. On 11 April 2011 the Compliance Officer notified Mr Mearns that he was the subject of a preliminary investigation and on 23 June 2011 the Compliance Officer opened a substantive investigation into this matter.
5. On 23 August 2011, the Compliance Officer issued a Statement of Provisional Findings. This statement provides full details of the investigation. The findings are summarised below.
Findings
6. The Compliance Officer found:
a. that, in contravention of the rules of the MPs’ Expenses Scheme, Mr Mearns received reimbursement for claims
he submitted for costs relating to his website at a time when the website contained a party political logo;
b. that Mr Mearns acted swiftly to rectify the contravention;
c. that IPSA was in part at fault as its validation procedures should have prevented reimbursement being made;
d. that seeking a repayment for this contravention would be neither proportionate nor reasonable; and
e. that IPSA had strengthened its validation practices.
Resolution
7. On 7 September Mr Mearns confirmed by telephone that he accepted the provisional findings.
8. No further action was required either of Mr Mearns or of IPSA and on 21 September 2011 the investigation was closed.

An excellent write-up to an investigation I’m sure you’ll agree.  Yes, the MP did something wrong and claimed money he shouldn’t have but IPSA was at fault so we won’t ask him to pay it back.

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve read every single one of the 21 reports but the 3 or 4 that I have read ALL contained this phrase “that seeking a repayment for this contravention would be neither proportionate nor reasonable

So it seems to me that IPSA’s Compliance Officer is a bit of a toothless tiger, might give you a nasty suck but that’s about all.  Nothing there to instil fear into our trusted politicians.

You can probably imagine, I was not best pleased with the lack of information being provided.

So, undeterred I asked the same questions of the Metropolitan Police.

On this occasion they were happy to supply me with some information;

At Question 1 you ask
Since 2008 what is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been investigated for
mis-claiming Parliamentary Expenses?
The MPS response is:
All MPs were subject to an initial assessment.
16 MPs were then subject to an extended assessment or investigation.

At Question 2 you ask
What is the TOTAL number that have been prosecuted?
The MPS response is:
4 MPs were prosecuted and convicted.
1 MP was prosecuted but deemed unfit to be convicted.
1 MP is the subject to an ongoing prosecution.

At first glance it seems like the MPS investigations were somewhat more thorough than those of the IPSA Compliance officer.

Bottom line is though, there was a huge scandal over Parliamentary ‘Expenses’ which has never really gone away.  IPSA’s investigations don’t really justify the name and the Met seems to have as good a job as it can with the information it was provided with. BUT these people are the Law Makers. They have no excuse for breaking the Law. They should, above all people, understand the Law.  It is NOT ACCEPTABLE for IPSA to say “It’s our fault, blame us, we’ll take no action’.

This scandal shows no signs of going away. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution holds good.  They find other ways to get away with claiming dubious expenses.  Just look at the IPSA website and see the kind of claims that are being paid every week as acceptable.  Then come back and tell me they don’t have #SNOUTSINTHETROUGH.

‘They’ Have Won – I Am Defeated

I’m feeling a little like Richard III at Bosworth Field.  I am beaten.  The #FOI Meister would like to announce his retirement from the field of combat.

The Home Office and 43 Police Services/Constabularies/Forces have, together, defeated me.

From this day onwards I shall no longer be probing the Home Office, MOPAC and the Police Services of England and Wales with Freedom of Information Act requests.  I shall keep my account open and I shall continue to submit the odd request for my own benefit, and I’ll certainly consider submitting the occasional request for The Usual Suspects (you know who you are).

It seems to me that there is an unspoken policy in place to make obtaining information as difficult as possible.  The Home Office are quite possibly the worst offenders of the lot in this respect.  There is absolutely no need to wait for the permitted 20 days to expire and then release the information within minutes of being prodded, in an attempt to remind them that their time is up.  That information has to be already there, the reply written, just waiting for the reminder.

There is absolutely no reason why they should wait for the 20 days to expire and then issue a Refusal Letter.  If they are going to refuse the request I’m pretty damn sure that they know that before the time limit is reached.

If you have read my recent blogs on RIPA you will be familiar with the tactics employed by certain Police Services to avoid answering questions they are not comfortable with.

The Freedom of Information Act has been on the statute books for 13 years this year and it is about time that the relevant public authorities accepted this and dealt with requests honourably.  Whether they like the Act or not, it’s there.  We’ve all been there, we know what the answer is, if there’s something you don’t want made public, make sure it doesn’t exist.  Not exactly in the spirit of the Act but I’m sure you understand.  Having said that, once the request comes in, it should be dealt with properly.  The Home Office is part of central government.  Parliament drew up and passed the Freedom of Information Act and, subsequently, various government departments, and other public authorities are exhausting themselves in an attempt to get round it.

The various indemnities and exemptions provided by the Act are there for a good reason, and I’m the last person who would want to attempt to breach that (honestly), but when I see contemptuous Refusals to requests that in no way breach Personal Information,  State Secrets or Police Methodology this tells me that there is a Conspiracy afoot.  A Conspiracy to stop good, honest folk getting to the truth.

I have appealed against my last 4 RIPA requests, because I do not, and cannot, accept the reasons for Refusal.

I have written to the Information Commissioner complaining about the attitude of Sussex Police in relation to a totally non-contentious FOI request that they have acknowledged receipt of.  It is still awaiting any kind of response since July 2012.  A little longer than 20 days I’m sure you will agree.  The Information Commissioner has written to them pointing out how they should be dealing with FOI requests and giving them a 10 day ultimatum to reply to me.  He has kindly forwarded to me a copy of his letter to them together with advice as to what to do next if they still don’t respond in time.

I cannot possibly do that with all of the FOI requests I have had refused.  I do not have enough years left on this planet to settle them all.

So there you have it, ‘They Have Won’  I shall continue to monitor the outstanding issues, and after that, my requests will be few and surgical.  My quill is worn down to a mere stub with it all.  I shall buy a new quill and continue to rant and blog, but #FOI have I none.

It’s been fun, I hope you have enjoyed them.

À la prochaine