Recently in Metropolitan Police Category

Annoyingly, the Metropolitan Police appear to have taken up the new Guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office, (See ICO Guidance on FOIA requests name and address for correspondence - another attack on Anonymity) with bureaucratic glee, and have rejected our FOIA request for the breakdown of some statistics , simply because of our use of a pseudonym, on the WhatDoTheyKnow.com FOIA request submission portal website.

Operation Maxim - breakdown of statistics of United Kingdom versus Foreign passports seized

This, in our view misinterprets the Freedom of Information Act requirement for a "name and address for correspondence".

Since they accept, an email address as the correspondence address, then so should they accept a pseudonym, rather than your "real" name.

The only reason for this name is to help deliver the FOIA disclosure to the requestor. Using a pseudonym obviously does not involve the "asking for personal information about yourself" exemption, and it makes to difference to determining whether a request is repeated or vexatious.

Public Bodies are not allowed to demand to know why any particular bit of information is being requested under the FOIA, so the identity of whoever is making the request is irrelevant.

Remember that WhatDoTheyKnow.com publishes the full text of the correspondence (with a few exceptions which are starting to creep in now), so if anybody did sign their real name and address, it is available to search engines, identity thieves, private investigators, future employers, and secret policemen etc.

By insisting on a "real name", for no good reason involved in the actual delivery of the information to be disclosed, this probably infringes on our ECHR Article 8 right to privacy of our communications and family life, but that will probably take over 5 years to establish through the Court system.

The Met Police rejection:


The following is a simple FOIA request, asking for a slightly more detailed breakdown of some published statistical totals, which are of significance in the debate about Identity Cards, the National Identity Register and Biometric Passports etc.

It will be interesting to see how this pseudonymous request is treated, following the new Guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office.

See ICO Guidance on FOIA requests name and address for correspondence - another attack on Anonymity

Text of the FOIA request:

Metropolitan Police Service - Operation Maxim - breakdown of statistics of United Kingdom versus Foreign passports seized

Should Freedom of Information Act request actually be necessary in order to get Public Authorities to actually re-publish stuff online which used to be public ?

From: [name] @ico.gsi.gov.uk
To: [email]
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 30 Mar 2007 15:00:36.
Ref: FOI/599

Dear [XXX]

Re: Your Request for Information

Further to your request for information dated 2nd March 2007.

A reply just within the 20 working days statutory maximum time period.

In response to points 1, 2 and 3 in your request. I write to confirm the Commissioner for the Metropolis are registered under the Data Protection Act 1998. The search criteria of 'Police' and 'London' would not have identified this record.

We specifically also tried "Commissioner", "Metropolis", "Metropolitan" and other keyword combinations, to no avail, until the entry magically re-appeared less than a week after the FOIA request.

See Metropolitan Police Service - Data Protection Register entry - Z4888193

As requested, a copy of the entry is available on the public register of data controllers which is published on our website. The registration number is Z4888193. The date registered is 9 September 2000 and the date of expiry is 8 September 2007. Notification is a general statement of the processing being carried out by the data controller. It is not intended, nor is it practicable for the register entry to contain very detailed information about a data controller's processing. The aim is to keep the content at a general level, with sufficient detail to give an overall picture of the processing, therefore data controllers are not required to list specific databases within their registration but register the purpose of the processing i.e Policing.

That is what we asked for, using the word "Policing":

"1) Whether or not the Metropolitan Police Service or the Metropolitan Police Commissioner currently have a valid Registration entry on the Register of Data Controllers, covering the Data Purpose of Policing, i.e."

In response to point 4 in your request. The recorded information held identifies that a standard letter regarding renewal confirmation in respect of Z4888193 was issued from this Office on 16 February 2007 to the data controller.

We wrote to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and enquired of the Information Commissioner's Office via phone on 23rd January 2007.

Most of the other Police Forces also have Register of Data Controller entries stretching for 7 years back from 2000, to autumn of 2007, without any such problems.

Draw you own conclusions as to whether there has been an error, which they are not admitting to.

I hope this clarifies the questions raised. If you are dissatisfied with the response you have received and wish to request a review of our decision or make a complaint about how your request has been handled you should write to the Information Request Team at the address below or e-mail Informationrequestteam@ico.gsi.gov.uk.

Your request for internal review should be submitted to us within 40
working days of receipt by you of this response. Any such request
received after this time will only be considered at the discretion of
the Commissioner.

If having exhausted the review process you are not content that your
request or review has been dealt with correctly, you have a further
right of appeal to this office in our capacity as the statutory
complaint handler under the legislation. To make such an application,
please write to the Senior Complaints Resolution Manager, Complaints
Resolution Team at the address below or e-mail mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk.

A copy of our review procedure is attached along with details of our
enforcement powers and your rights of appeal.

Yours sincerely

[name]
Notification Manager


Regular readers of this obscure blog may have noticed that our recent Freeedom of Information Act requests have not been for Government or Public Body documents or information which is confidential, but for things which have been promised to have already been claimed to have been published on a website , or for which there is a statutory duty to make public according to an Act of Parliament.

It should not require a Freedom of Information Act request to precipitate the publication of this sort of information !

Either our recent FOIA request to the Information Commissioner, or the independent pressure of enquiries by David Mery to the Metropolitan Police Service and th to the Metropolitan Police Authority, appears to have worked.

Thje Information Commissioner's search form for the Register of Data Controllers now shows an entry for Commissioner of the Metropolis, which it did not do so before e.g. through searching on the SW1H 0BG postcode or the wird Metropolis in the name field etc.

Technically, the title should be "Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis", which is what the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair is referred to in various bits of legislation e.g. the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act Section 133, whereby, controversially, demonstrators in the the Designated Area around Parliament Square have to apply to the holder of this public office, in writing, for prior permission.

Registration Number: Z4888193

Date Registered: 09 September 2000 Registration Expires: 08 September 2007

Data Controller: COMMISSIONER FOR THE METROPOLIS

Address:

METROPOLITAN POLICE SERVICE
NEW SCOTLAND YARD
BROADWAY
LONDON
SW1H 0BG

[...]

It seems peculiar to have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to the actual Information Commissioner's Office itself, regarding one of their supposedly public systems, the Register of Data Controllers, as per the Data Protection Act.

Nevertheless, there seems to be either some bureaucratic mix up or some sort of power struggle going on regarding the currently missing Data Protection Register entry for the Metropolitan Police Service in London.

No such entry seems to exist, according to the public web search form, and, over a month ago, according to ICO office staff looking at their internal systems, including recent and pending registration requests.. It appears that there has not been such an entry for the Metropolitan Police Service, or the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, since sometime last year, which is far longer than any "pending" requests take to update the searchable database.

Every other UK regional and non-geographic Police Force has a valid entry on the Register of Data Controllers. The Metropolitan Police Authority has, like all the other Police Authorities which supervise the budgets and policies of their respective Police Forces, its own entry for its own internaluses, which do not cover the Met for the Data Purpose of Policing.

If it turns out that there is no current such valid entry for the Met, or that there has been a time gap, during which the old entry ran out and a new one was submitted, then this could have all sorts of effects on the criminal justice system, as most of the Metropolitan Police intelligence and criminal justice system databases will have been processing personal data illegally.

We doubt that the Information Commissioner will choose to prosecute the Metropolitan Police Service, in the public interest, but there could be all sorts of grounds for appeal, and some guilty criminals may escape justice as a result.

Metropolitan Police FOIA - inflexible data systems

Our amended FOIA request (attached below) to the Metropolitan Police about the number of applications and authorisations, arrests and charges, under sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 has again been rejected, on the grounds that even this cut down request, would still take more than 18 hours to comply with, just like our original FOIA request.

Following a phone conversation with the Metropolitan Police records people, the reasons that even this amended request would, apparently take so long, is interesting, and has implications for any FOIA requests to the Metropolitan Police for any crime statistics.

Apparently in order to determine how many arrests or charges there have been over a specific time period, for a specific offence, under any legislation, the Metropolitan Police would need to "look in over 100 places" on their computer systems.

Details of the actual reasons for an Arrest, or the details of any actual Charges, are, apparently, stored in free text fields on their computer systems, and so this information is not easily automatically cross-referenced - no Google search engine for the Metropolitan Police records, by the looks of things !

There does not appear to be a centralised criminal charge booking system, each Borough within the Metropolitan Police does its own.

We have been advised that sending an FOIA request to each Borough, would be interpreted as a "campaign" and the "vexatious requests" Exemption from the FOIA would then apply.

Our only hope of getting what should be the relatively simple information, on what appears to be less than a dozen arrests and/or charges under sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crimes and Police Act 2005, wouild be to submit the request to Westminster Borough Division (most of the Designated Area around Parliament Square) , and then, perhaps a month later to Lambeth Borough which covers the London Eye etc, on the south/east bank of the Thames.

Similarly, our "simple" request for the number of Written Applications for Permission to Demonstrate, and the number of Authorisations by the Commissioner (with ot without attached Conditions), is not handled by a single desk at, say, the Public Order Operational Command Unit, but by each of the Borough Operational Command Units (BOCU). The badly draughted SOCPA legislation allows for Applications to "the Commissioner for Police of the Metropolis", to be sent by recorded delivery postal mail, or to be handed in at any Police Station in the Metropolis.

Therfore again, any search of their records, London wide, involves each of the BOCU, all 34 of them, plus Applications sent to the New Scotland Yard HQ. Even if it only takes about half an hour to deal with an FOIA request at each BOCU, then the "18 hour" limit is almost certain to be breached.

Given the billions of pounds spent on the Metropolitan Police's IT systems over the years, and the insatiable demand for crime statistics by the Home Office, it does seem extraordinary, that the system should be so fragmented, and that a free text search engine has not been installed.

The Metropolitan Police have rejected our FOIA request, regarding the notifications and authorisations, arrrests and charges under the controversial new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area arounf Parliament Square, Whitehall , the London Eye etc. because they estimate that it would take too long.

OK, we will try again with fewer questions, using the hard to find online form:

http://www.met.police.uk/information/metric/index.htm

FOIA request to the Metropolitan Police regarding the Seriouus Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square - applications and authorisations to demonstrate, arrests and charges for July and August 2005, when the powers to demand written prior permission and arbitrary conditions on any , ill defined "demonstration", within a large area around Parliament Square, came into force.

The Metropolitan Police are not a Central Government Department, so some of the Freedom of Information Act Exemptions which the likes of the Home Office or the Treasury routinely invoke do not apply.

About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog has been spawned from Spy Blog, and is meant to provide a place to track our Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to United Kingdom Government and other Public Authorities.

If you have suggestions for other FOIA requests,  bearing in mind the large list of exemptions, then email them to us, or use the comments facility on this blog, and we will see  what we can do, without you yourself having to come under the direct scrutiny of  "Sir Humphrey Appleby" or his minions.

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