On 6th August, 2021, the following request was made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA or FOI or the Act). It followed publication, elsewhere on this website, of an article about a knife crime initiative launched by Greater Manchester Police‘s Q Division in Oldham and backed by one of the town’s MPs, Jim McMahon (read more here):
That story needed fleshing out with some further, basic details and this FOIA request, as many made by Neil Wilby often are, was the first in a two, or possibly three, stage process.
“Please disclose the following information by way of the Freedom of Information Act, 2000.
1. Name/rank of Gold Commander
2. Name/rank of Senior Investigating Officer
3. Date of first entry in policy book/log
4. Number of arrests made by Operation Cayman team up to and including 6th August, 2021.
5. Number of suspects charged by the Operation Cayman team up to and including 6th August, 2021″.
The Act requires that a response be provided PROMPTLY and, in any event, within 20 working days. That is to say, in the case of this request, the backstop date was on or before 4th September, 2021, after taking account of the late summer Bank Holiday.
GMP has, to date, not even acknowledged the request. They have, regrettably, an appalling recording of non-compliance and treat the statutory regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office. A recent example is another request made by Neil Wilby regarding another Oldham policing operation, codenamed Hexagon, can be followed here. It is no exaggeration to say that a straightforward, plainly expressed disclosure request, that places no undue burden on a police force, has devolved into an ugly war of attrition.
On 7th September, 2021 an application for an internal review of the Operation Cayman FOI request, a qualified right under section 45 of the Act, was submitted to GMP in these terms:
“Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.
I am writing to request an internal review of Greater Manchester Police’s handling of my FOI request ‘Operation Cayman’.
The Grounds of Complaint are that GMP has, deliberately in my respectful submission, breached sections 10 and 17 of the Act”.
A link to the full history of the FOI request and all correspondence was provided to GMP in an effort to assist them in either answering either the disclosure request ot the internal review request, or both.
Two days later, against all expectations, the information request was answered in full by GMP. Although the tagging of the Home Office, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, the Nation Police Chiefs Council and the Independent Office for Police Conduct in a Twitter post may well have speeded up matters.
This is the GMP response which answered all the questions within the disclosure request:
“Following receipt of your request searches were conducted within Greater Manchester Police to locate information relevant to your request. I can confirm that the information you have requested is held by Greater Manchester Police.
Results of Searches
1. Superintendent 06741 Colette Rose.
2. Detective Inspector 16049 Kenny Blain.
3. Wednesday 10th March 2021
4. 10 arrests
5. No suspects have been charged
Should you have any further inquiries concerning this matter, please write or contact me, on [redacted] telephone number quoting the reference number above, GSA/2821/21”.
The internal review request was not mentioned, but to save any further administrative burden on GMP it has now been withdrawn.
A simple supplementary request has now been made:
“Of the 10 nominals arrested how many have been (i) released under investigation (ii) bailed or (iii) had their case file marked ‘no further action’ or ‘case closed’ or words with similar meaning or effect”.
This page will be updated as and when the next response is received.
The article ‘MP backs knife crime purge’ article, posted elsewhere on this website, has been updated accordingly.
Greater Manchester Police is, of course, still in Special Measures’, ordered by the Home Office in December, 2020. It is a force in almost complete disarray. Disclosure breaches are not confined to the Freedom of Information Act, either: Data subject access requests are taking months and years to process rather than days and weeks. Disregarding obligations under Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act, as well as Civil and Tribunal Procedure Rules is also deeply embedded in the force’s disclosure DNA. Judge-led public scrutiny, such as the Grainger Inquiry which reported in July 2019, also do not merit appropriate and lawful attention.
A third FOIA request made to GMP on 18th July, 2021, and linked to that inquiry, has also seen them be prepared to break the law, rather than disclose very basic information that should be very readily retrievable (read here).
Insiders say matters have worsened since the arrival of new chief constable, Stephen Watson, and morale, efficiency and effectiveness of the force is at an all time low.
Page last updated: Thursday 9th September, 2021 at 1130 hours
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Picture credit: GMP
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