Anti terror campaign/suspicious photographers

J Earley made this Freedom of Information request to Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) did not have the information requested.

Dear Sir or Madam,

The recent Metropolitan Police anti terror campaign includes posters/adverts advising the public to report any suspicious photographers or photographic activity - see http://www.met.police.uk/campaigns/campa...

Under FOI I wish to enquire, since 1 Jan 2008;

How many instances of suspicious photographic activity have been reported?

How many times have police attended to such reports?

How many photographers have been arrested as a result of such reports?

How many photographers have been prosecuted as a result of such reports?

Yours faithfully,
James Earley

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

Dear Mr Earley

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2008070005346
I write in connection with your request for information which was received
by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 19/07/2008. I note you seek
access to the following information:

* The recent Metropolitan Police anti terror campaign includes
posters/adverts advising the public to report any suspicious
photographers or photographic activity - see
http://www.met.police.uk/campaigns/campa...
* Under FOI I wish to enquire, since 1 Jan 2008;
* How many instances of suspicious photographic activity have been
reported?
* How many times have police attended to such reports?
* How many photographers have been arrested as a result of such reports?
* How many photographers have been prosecuted as a result of such
reports?

Your request will now be considered in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (the Act). You will receive a response within
the statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined by the Act,
subject to the information not being exempt or containing a reference
to a third party. In some circumstances the MPS may be unable to
achieve this deadline. If this is likely you will be informed and
given a revised time-scale at the earliest opportunity.

There may be a fee payable for the retrieval, collation and provision
of the information you request. If this is the case you will be
informed and the 20 working day timescale will be suspended until we
receive payment from you. If you choose not to make payment then your
request will remain unanswered.

Some requests may also require either full or partial transference to
another public authority in order to answer your query in the fullest
possible way. Again, you will be informed if this is the case.

Your attention is drawn to the attached sheet which details your right
of complaint.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest
in the MPS.

Should you have any further inquiries concerning this matter, please
contact the FOI Policy and Support Team at
[email address] quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely

S. Pallen
Freedom of Information Police and Support Team
Policy and Support Officer
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 and encouraged to
discuss the decision with the case officer that dealt with your
request.

Ask to have the decision looked at again –

The quickest and easiest way to have the decision looked at again is
to telephone the case officer that is nominated at the end of your
decision letter.

That person will be able to discuss the decision, explain any issues
and assist with any problems.

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 and addressed to:

FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192
London
SW6 1SF

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your
complaint within three months.
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

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Dear Sir or Madam,

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2008070005346

I was due a response to my enquiry by 19th August, which has not so far been received.

Your urgent attention to this matter is requested. In the meantime I will be making a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner and requesting a review of how my enquiry has been handled and the reason for the lack of any response.

Yours sincerely,
J Earley

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

Dear Mr Earley

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2008080006155

I write in connection with your email of complaint dated 21 August 2008 in
relation to your request for information relating to:

* Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2008070005346

The review will be conducted in accordance to the MPS's complaints
procedure. The MPS endeavour to respond to your complaint by 22 October
2008.

Should you have any further inquiries concerning this matter, please
respond to my email quoting the reference number above.

Thank you for your interest in the MPS.

Yours sincerely

S.Pallen
FOI Review Officer
Metropolitan Police Service
Public Access Office

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 and encouraged to
discuss the decision with the case officer that dealt with your request.

Ask to have the decision looked at again –

The quickest and easiest way to have the decision looked at again is to
telephone the case officer that is nominated at the end of your decision
letter.

That person will be able to discuss the decision, explain any issues and
assist with any problems.

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 and addressed to:

FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192
London
SW6 1SF

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your
complaint within three months.
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

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Dear S. Pallen,

Thank you for your response.

For the record, you have breached section 10 (1) of the FOI Act in that they have failed to
respond to my request within 20 working days of the request being made and I would like to request an internal review into why this has
happened.

However, I do not expect that this review should cause
further delay in responding to my original request.

I would ask for your response to my original request by return, as you are now in breach of the law in this matter which is a concern in itself.

Yours sincerely,
J Earley

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

Dear Mr Earley

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2008070005346

I write in connection with your request for information which was received
by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 19/07/2008. I note you seek
access to the following information:

** The recent Metropolitan Police anti terror campaign includes
posters/adverts advising the public to report any suspicious photographers
or photographic activity - see
http://www.met.police.uk/campaigns/campa...

Under FOI I wish to enquire, since 1 Jan 2008;

1. How many instances of suspicious photographic activity have been
reported?
2. How many times have police attended to such reports?
3. How many photographers have been arrested as a result of such reports?
4. How many photographers have been prosecuted as a result of such
reports?

James,
I have prepared this reply which is intended to address your questions
in as appropriate a manner as is possible in the circumstances.
Plainly you are not going to receive the answers to the questions you
have asked for reasons which I trust will be obvious from my response.
However I have attached weblinks that are intended to assist in
explaining the rationale behind the policy.
I should first however stress that the advertising campaign that you
refer invites concerned members of the public to report their worries
to the CONFIDENTIAL Anti-Terrorist Hotline. It would be perverse if
the term 'confidential' meant nothing in the context of this request.
http://www.met.police.uk/campaigns/campa...
http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/new...

http://www.met.police.uk/campaigns/evalu...

The 3rd of these weblinks takes you to the published evalution report
which includes that particular campaign.

I also attach a weblink to a discussion forum from the publication
Amateur Photographer. You will see that it publishes a response I sent
previously concerned this Counter Terrorism campaign.

http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/for...

Finally referring specifically to your questions in terms of Freedom
of Information (FOIA) access rights:

The straight-forward answers are:

1) Not appropriate to answer,
2) All of them are assessed (therefore all 'attended to')
3) Not appropriate to answer.
4) Not appropriate to answer.

From an FOIA perspective, the data you request attracts numerous
exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act. It would be grossly
wrong for the police to invite the public to provide confidential
information then publish details of those calls. This would have the
consequence of the public losing trust in the confidentiality of
Hotline calls to the Police, and seriously harm the objectives of
Crime Prevention and Detection. Whilst I could spell the rationale for
these exemptions in fuller detail, I suspect that such an explanation
may be unnecessary as the reasons will be obvious.
The primary relevant FOIA exemptions are s23, s24, s30, s31, s38, s40,
& s41. (Whilst I could explain this further if necessary, you can get
more technical information about these exemptions from the websites of
the Information Commiosoner or the campaign for freedom of information
(www.CFOI)). The confidentiality principle is so fundemental to the
prevention and detection of crime, that most exemptions weigh
extremely heavily in favour of maintaining that confidentiality.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS
Your attention is drawn to the attached sheet which details your right
of complaint.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest
in the MPS.
Should you have any further inquiries concerning this matter or
require additional information / explanation, please write or contact
Neil Smith on telephone number 0207 230 2717 quoting the reference
number above.
Yours sincerely

Neil Smith
Detective Inspector
Counter Terrorism Command
New Scotland Yard
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 and encouraged to
discuss the decision with the case officer that dealt with your
request.
Ask to have the decision looked at again ***
The quickest and easiest way to have the decision looked at again is
to telephone the case officer that is nominated at the end of your
decision letter.
That person will be able to discuss the decision, explain any issues
and assist with any problems.
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 and addressed to:
FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192
London
SW6 1SF

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your
complaint within three months.
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 700Case reference: 2008070005346

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Tony Bowden left an annotation ()

The focus on confidentiality here appears to be a complete red herring, as the request was only for summary total figures, not details of any specific investigation.

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

Dear Mr Earley

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2008080006155

Further to our letter of 22 August 2008, I am now able to provide a
response to your complaint emails dated the 18th and 25th August 2008
concerning the fact that the MPS had failed to respond to your FOI request
within the 20 working day deadline:

* Complaint regarding original FOI case number: 2008070005346

To conduct this Internal Review, I have consulted with the Counter
Terrorism Command.

I would like to apologise for the fact that you did not receive the
response to your FOI request by the statutory deadline of 15 August 2008.
I also apologise that you did not receive an update on the status of your
case explaining that the MPS would be unable to meet the statutory
deadline, or an estimated date of completion of when the response would be
available. I am aware that you received the final response on 26 August
2008.

Unfortunately we find it is not always possible to meet the statutory
deadlines, due to the complexity of requests and due to staff resourcing
issues. We are aware this is not reason enough for the MPS to not respond
within the statutory timeframe, but it is a resource issue that the MPS
takes very seriously and is working hard to rectify.

Therefore I would like to assure you that the MPS is continually striving
hard to ensure statutory deadlines are met and enquiries are responded to
as soon as possible. We are working towards this goal whilst ensuring the
operational policing needs of London are not effected.

To ensure good practice, I have contacted and advised the Department
concerned that applicants should be updated in good time if there is a
possibility their request deadline will not be met for any reason.

I would once again like to apologise for the delay you have experienced in
regards to your Freedom of Information request and hope this will not
deter you from contacting us in the future.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS

If you are dissatisfied with this response please read the attached paper
entitled Complaint Rights which explains how to contact the Information
Commissioner with your complaint.

Should you have any further inquiries concerning this matter please
contact me, quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely

S. Pallen
FOI Review Officer
Metropolitan Police Service
Public Access Office
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 and encouraged to
discuss the decision with the case officer that dealt with your request.

Ask to have the decision looked at again –

The quickest and easiest way to have the decision looked at again is to
telephone the case officer that is nominated at the end of your decision
letter.

That person will be able to discuss the decision, explain any issues and
assist with any problems.

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 and addressed to:

FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192
London
SW6 1SF

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your
complaint within three months.
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

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Neil Smith
Detective Inspector
Counter Terrorism Command
New Scotland Yard

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2008070005346

Dear Neil,

Thank you very much for your response to my recent FOI request.

Other matters have delayed me in responding further but whilst I appreciate the time you have taken to consider my request, but I will take issue with your comments; "Plainly you are not going to receive the answers to the questions you have asked for
reasons which I trust will be obvious from my response..... I should first however stress that the advertising campaign that you refer
invites concerned members of the public to report their worries to the
CONFIDENTIAL Anti-Terrorist Hotline. It would be perverse if the term
'confidential' meant nothing in the context of this request"

I did not request ANY confidential information and nor would I expect any such information to be granted. I merely requested the statistics of the numbers of calls and subsequent cases only.

I must appeal and ask that this request be reconsidered.

The information I requested was as follows;

1) How many instances of suspicious photographic activity have been reported?

2) How many times have police attended to such reports?

3) How many photographers have been arrested as a result of such reports?

4) How many photographers have been prosecuted as a result of such reports?

I reiterate, I am seeking numbers and statistics only in relation to these questions.

I fully appreciate and understand that it would not be right for you to quote any details which would breach anyones right to the confidentiality in reporting such instances to the Metropolitan Police, therefore a simple numeric answer against each question will suffice.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,
James

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

Mr Earley,

Having looked at my previous reply, perhaps it wasn't sufficiently clear, I will try to give you the simplest answers I can to your specific questions:

1) Calls to the Anti-Terrorist Hotline are CONFIDENTIAL. That in reality is non negotiable. This means that we do not discuss the content of those calls although to GROSS number of calls is published. WE DO NOT COUNT THOSE CALLS IN SPECIFIC CATEGORIES. For example, if we received 1,000 calls, a small number might relate to suspicious photography, others will relate to other publicity campaigns, others might relate to people concerned about the activities of neighbours, etc. There are a multitude of reasons why people might call the anti-terrorist hotline. Each and every one of those calls is assessed and dealt with appropriately. The answer therefore to your question is - We do not seperately count the number of people who call in about photography. Photography is one potentially important source of intelligence, all of which are dealt with similar levels of attention. The police do not collate statistics simply for the sake of creating them, there has to be some material product value to justify the resource effort in breating the data. That is not judged to be the case here.

The technical answer to your questions therefore from an FOIA perspective is INFORMATION NOT HELD. The Act doesn't require a public authority to create records that don't already exist.

You should also appreciate that the anti-terrorist hotline is not the only way by which the public can report their suspicions or concerns to the police.

2) As will be clear from my previous answer, whether the nuymber was 1, 10 or 100 - all of them were attended to. As we don't seperately count the number all I can say is that 100% were 'attended to'.

3) Your question is far too subjective. Let me answer it as clearly as appropriate. A member of the public calls the police to say that 3 men in a car (index provided) are seen taking photographs near to Heathrow Airport. Are these 'photographers' by your definition, or are they possible terrorist planners by the definition of the person who called the police?

The Counter Terrorist police do not simply go round and 'arrest' those people, they carry out relevant supportive enquiries which may or may not lead to an arrest operation. Your scenario seems to focus on a 'press or keen amateur photographer' going about his/her legitimate business, being arrested on suspicion of terrorism simply for going about their legitimate business. That is not what that publicity campaign was about, and for you and others who operate in that environment to be under that impression is ridiculous and doubtless unhelpful in terms of hoing about your legitimate activities. Has any legitimate photographer been stopped and questioned by regular police going about their routine patrols? I have not doubt the answer is yes but we at New Scotland Yard probably know nothing whatsoever about such incidents. Has anyone been arrested by officers from the Counter Terrorism Command simply for taking photographs, the answer is obviously NO. Taking photographs could never provide reasonable grounds to justify an arrest unless there was something else about the circumstances or known or suspected about the person to justify an arrest. I trust I steered you towards the Barot case where the sort of photography that was alluded to in the publicity campaign took place.

Whilst I cannot therefore give you a certain answer, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that NO ONE has been arrested simply for taking photographs although it would not be unreasonable to conclude that terrorist planning involving taking photographs by the suspects is relevant to some of the cases where people are being (or have been) prosecuted.

Again, we do not count the cases where photography forms part of the evidence. Therefore the technical answer to your question from an FOIA perspective is INFORMATION NOT HELD AS WE DON'T COUNT IT.

4) The simple answer is NO PHOTOGRAPHER has been prosecuted simply for taking photographs. (I do not here include offences concerning pornography or decency as that is not an area for which my department has responsibility, and plainly that activity could amount to an offence without any other supportive evidence). Some suspected (or convicted) terrorists will have taken photographs as part of their criminal activity / planning, and it is conceivable that some of those may have been reported to the police via the Anti-Terrorist Hotline (although again we don't 'count' those). The answer therefore is again INFORMATION NOT HELD.

I fully appreciate that you may only asking for statistics, but what you are asking for actually goes beyond that. You are asked for details of what happened in relation to a particular set of confidential calls to the police. In statistical terms, that would amount to qualitative distilled information, not 'simple statistics'. As I have said, we don't actually do that 'distilling' exercise as it has no patent product value in terms of how we deal with or respond to this type of information call. Without being churlish, I should point out that we don't collate statistics simply for the sake of it. We gather statistics when the exercise has a material product benefit, or when the statistic relates to a subject area that the police are required by the Home Office, the Police Authority or through some other official committment to gather that specific data. That doesn't apply here. To reflect back to my earlier example, someone could conceivably ask, how many confidential hotline calls related the groups of 3 men acting suspiciously near to significant transit locations. As with your request we are more concerned that all of the calls were dealt with properly, rather than knowing how many calls were received in what category.

I regret therefore that I am unable to give you the answers you are looking for, and add 1 final FOIA relevant rider.

If the Counter Terrorism Command was to carry out an exercise so as to create the statistics you seek, it would necessitate every call the anti-terrorist hotline being reviewed. The outcomes of that review would then have to be considered along with each case file to see what was the outcome of the investigation (as the initial incoming report is likely to simply say that the information has been passed to the relevant department for assessment and/or action). The task therefore of determining what information is held, locating that information, extracting it from the intelligence or case reports, and finially creating the statistics you seek would take weeks of work, and as I have said would have no material product value to the police or effort to combat terrorism. You may know that the upper costs limit for an FOIA request in terms of work, equates to a maximum of 18 hours work. As there is no prospect of this task being completed within that timeframe, your request would also be declined undre section 12 of the act which relates to costs limits.

The objective of this particular publicity campaign was to draw the public's attention to the activities of the likes of Dhiren Barot, not yourself and other professional or legitimate photographers.

Regards

Neil Smith
Detective Inspector
SO15 (Counter Terrorism Command)
* Phone: 0207 230 2717
* Metphone: 62697 / 63002
* [mobile number]
* E-mail: [email address]

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Richard Jackson left an annotation ()

Normally a request for review should be handled by someone superior to the person who made the original reply, although I'm not sure if that's just good practice or actually mandated somewhere. In this case it's unclear whether the next stage of appeal (if that were to be considered) would be back to the MPS or onto the ICO.

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

I've marked this request as "information not held", as that seems to be the response. Of course, the requester may want to still follow up about the internal review, or with the ICO.

Peter Northall left an annotation ()

I suspect that DI Smith has provided as much of an answer as you are going to get on this. Despite his protestations about not providing info, he has told you that NO photographer has been prosecuted in relation to your question. Perhaps the real issue, which your request has well highlighted, is the appallingly misdirected and badly worded publicity campaign which has hopefully now slunk away into obscurity.