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Posted by: John Brace | December 20, 2013

Metropolitan Police refuse to answer questions over Wirral care home fraud investigation


Metropolitan Police refuse to answer questions over Wirral care home fraud investigation

                     

Exactly a month ago I made my first Freedom of Information Act request to the Metropolitan Police about the care home fraud of £45,683.86 involving Wirral Council.

Below are the five (perfectly reasonable) questions I asked.

Dear Metropolitan Police Service (MPS),

A report to Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee states that a fraud of £45,683.86 and £95.60 against Wirral Council was referred to the Metropolitan Police and that it is being “actively pursued”.

In relation to this investigation could you please answer the following questions.

1) Have the Metropolitan Police concluded their inquiries into the issues raised by Action Fraud/Wirral Council into the alleged fraud?

2) Has anyone been charged with a criminal offence in relation to matter? If so, how many people have been charged?

3) Who is conducting (or if it has concluded conducted) the investigation and what are their contact details? What rank is the investigating officer assigned to the case?

4) If the investigation is currently ongoing when is it likely to reach a conclusion?

5) As the fraud involved a victim in Merseyside, why is the Metropolitan Police and not the local police force (Merseyside Police) investigating the matter?

Yours faithfully,

John Brace

In response (after a reply on the 25th November basically saying they have received my request) yesterday I got this reply (which includes my questions). Certainly it’s one of those cases that’s probably worthy of requesting an internal review of. As to their suggestion that I’d get a different response to my questions if I got in touch with their press office instead, if it’s anything like Merseyside Police’s press office I’m pretty sure I’d just get a “no comment” response from them if I tried anyway! Metropolitan Police’s response to my Freedom of Information Act request is below. I’ve added some line spacing between paragraphs to make it more readable but otherwise it’s verbatim except for correcting a small typographical error where there was a missing space between two words.

Dear Mr Brace

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2013110002125

I respond in connection with your request for information which was received by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 20/11/2013. I note you seek access to the following information:

* A report to Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee states that a fraud of £45,683.86 and £95.60 against Wirral Council was referred to the Metropolitan Police and that it is being “actively pursued”.

In relation to this investigation could you please answer the following questions.

1) Have the Metropolitan Police concluded their inquiries into the issues raised by Action Fraud/Wirral Council into the alleged fraud?

2) Has anyone been charged with a criminal offence in relation to matter? If so, how many people have been charged?

3) Who is conducting (or if it has concluded conducted) the investigation and what are their contact details? What rank is the investigating officer assigned to the case?

4) If the investigation is currently ongoing when is it likely to reach a conclusion?

5) As the fraud involved a victim in Merseyside, why is the Metropolitan Police and not the local police force (Merseyside Police) investigating the matter?

EXTENT OF SEARCHES TO LOCATE INFORMATION
To locate the information relevant to your request searches were conducted within Specialist Crime and Operations.

RESULT OF SEARCHES
The searches located information relevant to your request.

DECISION
Before I explain the reasons for the decisions I have made in relation to your request, I thought that it would be helpful if I outline the parameters set out by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) within which a request for information can be answered.

The Act creates a statutory right of access to information held by public authorities. A public authority in receipt of a request must if permitted, confirm if the requested information is held by that public authority and if so, then communicate that information to the applicant.

The right of access to information is not without exception and is subject to a number of exemptions which are designed to enable public authorities to withhold information that is not suitable for release. Importantly, the Act is designed to place information into the public domain, that is, once
access to information is granted to one person under the Act, it is then considered public information and must be communicated to any individual should a request be received.

Having considered the relevant information, I am afraid that I am not required by statute to release the information requested.

This email serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Act.

REASONS FOR DECISION
The information requested relates to an ongoing investigation and is exempt by the virtue of Section 30(1)(a) of the Act.

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

Section 30 Investigations
Under Sections 30(1)(a) of the Act, Public Authorities are able to withhold information relating to investigations where its release would or would be likely to, have an adverse effect upon other investigations or the prosecution of offenders.

This exemption can be applied following completion of a Public Interest Test (PIT).

The purpose of the PIT is to establish whether the ‘Public Interest’ lies in disclosing or withholding the requested information.

To release this information would disclose MPS practices used in this and similar investigations thereby exposing operational procedures and investigative protocols.

Information relating to an investigation will rarely be disclosed under the Act and only where there is a strong public interest consideration favouring disclosure.

Section 30 being a qualified exemption there is a statutory requirement to carry out a PIT when considering any disclosure and this is detailed below.

Public Interest Test – Investigations.
The public interest is not what interests the public but what will be of greater good if released to the community as a whole. It is not in the public interest to disclose information that may compromise the MPS’s ability to complete any future criminal investigations.

Evidence of Harm – Investigations
In considering whether or not this information should be disclosed we have considered the potential harm that could be caused by disclosure.

Under the Act we cannot and do not request the motives of any applicant for information. We have no doubt the vast majority of applications under the Act are legitimate and do not have any ulterior motives, however in disclosing information to one applicant we are expressing a willingness to
provide it to anyone in the world.

This means that a disclosure to a genuinely interested applicant automatically opens it up for a similar disclosure to anyone, including those who might represent a threat to individuals or any possible criminal and/or civil process.

The MPS does not generally disclose information from investigations except through our Directorate of Media & Communication to the media. This is so potential witnesses are not discouraged to come forward and provide statements in relation to investigations.

The manner in which investigations are conducted is usually kept in strict secrecy so that the tactics and lines of enquiry that are followed do not become public knowledge thereby rendering them useless.

Section 30 Investigations Public Interest considerations favouring disclosure.
The investigation into allegations of fraud at Wirral Council is a high profile matter.
There has already been a significant amount of information placed into the public domain through media articles.
The public therefore have a genuine interest in being informed as to the nature and circumstances of these incidents and who may have been involved.

Sect 30 Investigations Public interest considerations favouring non-disclosure
During the course of any ongoing investigation enquires are made to secure evidence. These enquires are made for the duration of the case and are based upon proven methods as well as the judgement and experience of the officer(s) in charge of the investigation.

The MPS is reliant upon these techniques to conduct its investigations and the public release of the modus operandi employed during the course of this enquiry could prejudice the ability of the MPS to conduct further, similar investigations.

It cannot be clear at present what effect disclosures through FOI of investigation material may have upon this case but care must be taken to not compromise any strand of the investigation.

Balance test
Disclosure under the Act is a disclosure to the world not just to the individual making the request.

On balance the disclosure of information relating to an ongoing police investigation cannot be justified.

The public’s interest would not be served in releasing information if its release could compromise this or any current/future policing investigation.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS
If you are dissatisfied with this response please read the attached paper entitled Complaint Rights which explains how to make a complaint.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please E-Mail me or contact me on 0207 230 6267 or at the address at the top of this letter, quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely

Yvette Taylor
Information Manager

In complying with their statutory duty under sections 1 and 11 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to release the enclosed information, the Metropolitan Police Service will not breach the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. However, the rights of the copyright owner of the enclosed information will continue to be protected by law. Applications for the copyright owner’s written permission to reproduce any part of the attached information should be addressed to MPS Directorate of Legal
Services, 1st Floor (Victoria Block), New Scotland Yard, Victoria, London, SW1H 0BG.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Are you unhappy with how your request has been handled or do you think the decision is incorrect?

You have the right to require the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to review their decision.

Prior to lodging a formal complaint you are welcome to discuss the response with the case officer who dealt with your request.

Complaint

If you are dissatisfied with the handling procedures or the decision of the MPS made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) regarding access to information you can lodge a complaint with the MPS to have the decision reviewed.

Complaints should be made in writing, within forty (40) working days from the date of the refusal notice, and addressed to:

FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192
London
SW6 1SF
[email address]

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your complaint within 20 working days.

The Information Commissioner

After lodging a complaint with the MPS if you are still dissatisfied with the decision you may make application to the Information Commissioner for a decision on whether the request for information has been dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Act.

For information on how to make application to the Information Commissioner please visit their website at www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.
Alternatively, phone or write to:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Phone: 01625 545 700

LEGAL ANNEX
Section 17(1) of the Act provides:

(1) A public authority which, in relation to any request for information, is to any extent relying on a claim that any provision in part II relating to the duty to confirm or deny is relevant to the request or on a claim that information is exempt information must, within the time for complying with section 1(1), give the applicant a notice which-

(a) states the fact,
(b) specifies the exemption in question, and
(c) states (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.

30(1) Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities.

(1) Information held by a public authority is exempt information if it has at any time been held by the authority for the purposes of-

(a) any investigation which the public authority has a duty to conduct with a view to it being ascertained-

(i) whether a person should be charged with an offence, or
(ii) whether a person charged with an offence is guilty of it

In complying with their statutory duty under sections 1 and 11 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to release the enclosed information, the Metropolitan Police Service will not breach the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. However, the rights of the copyright owner of the enclosed information will continue to be protected by law. Applications for the copyright owner’s written permission to reproduce any part of the attached information should be addressed to MPS Directorate of Legal
Services, 1st Floor (Victoria Block), New Scotland Yard, Victoria, London, SW1H 0BG.

Total Policing is the Met’s commitment to be on the streets and in your communities to catch offenders, prevent crime and support victims. We are here for London, working with you to make our capital safer.

Consider our environment – please do not print this email unless absolutely necessary.

NOTICE – This email and any attachments may be confidential, subject to copyright and/or legal privilege and are intended solely for the use of the intended recipient. If you have received this email in error, please notify the sender and delete it from your system. To avoid incurring legal liabilities, you must not distribute or copy the information in this email without the permission of the sender. MPS communication systems are monitored to the extent permitted by law. Consequently, any email and/or attachments may be read by monitoring staff. Only specified personnel are authorised to conclude any binding agreement on behalf of the MPS by email. The MPS accepts no responsibility for unauthorised agreements reached with other employees or agents. The security of this email and any attachments cannot be guaranteed. Email messages are routinely scanned but malicious software infection and corruption of content can still occur during transmission over the Internet. Any views or opinions expressed in this communication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

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Responses

  1. “This is not the liberty we hope for..”Milton 1643

    Like

    • Sadly I don’t think having previously read Milton or even John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” is a requirement for either staff or officers working for the Metropolitan Police Service.

      You only have to look at the behaviour of some who worked for the Metropolitan Police Service (one facing criminal charges and eight facing disciplinary action) in the case of the former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell in Plebgate to see how sadly police officers can give a misleading account about what happens to further their own political motivations and campaigns.

      Like


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