Contacts with Lancashire business leaders and Home Office on fracking protest

Kevin Blowe made this Freedom of Information request to Lancashire Constabulary

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Lancashire Constabulary,

A report in The Times on 11 March 2017 about opposition to the Cuardrilla drill site near Blackpool stated that "after complaints to the Home Office by local pro-business leaders, Lancashire Police are taking a tougher line with the protesters, some of whom are anti-capitalist activists."

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/f...

Please can you provide copies of any correspondence Lancashire Police has received from either local business organisations or the Home Office regarding the protests at Preston New Road since the start of January?

Yours faithfully,

Kevin Blowe

Information assurance unit, Lancashire Constabulary

If you are emailing a valid Freedom of Information request please treat
this as a formal acknowledgement.

 

Your request will now be considered in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000, known hereafter as ‘the Act’. You should receive a
response within the statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined in
the Act (from when Lancashire Constabulary receive a valid request).

 

Please note that disclosure is subject to the information not being exempt
or containing a reference to a third party.

 

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.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in
Lancashire Constabulary.

 

Regards,

 

Compliance Team

Professional Standards Department

Information Compliance and Disclosure Section

Lancashire Constabulary Headquarters

 

Tel: 01772 413329

Email: [1][email address]

 

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Information assurance unit, Lancashire Constabulary

2 Attachments

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST REFERENCE NO: 1619/17

Please find attached Lancashire Constabulary’s response to your recent
request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in
Lancashire Constabulary.

Regards,

 

 

Compliance Team

Professional Standards Department

Information Compliance and Disclosure Section

Lancashire Constabulary Headquarters

 

Tel: 01772 413329

Email: [1][email address]

 

 

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Dear Lancashire Constabulary,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Lancashire Constabulary's handling of my FOI request 'Contacts with Lancashire business leaders and Home Office on fracking protest'. My concerns are as follows.

The Information Commissioner has made it clear that in relying on a section 31 exemption (prejudice to law enforcement), as you have done, a public body must consider 'the likelihood and the consequences of disclosing the actual information in question and not treat the exemption as being absolute.'

ICO guidance also says 'It is also important to recognise that the public authority can only take account of consequences that are realistic possibilities. Public authorities cannot take account of either crimes or the consequences of those crimes which are too speculative or fanciful.' For reference, see https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

This request was very clear in asking for correspondence from business organisations in the context of seeking to lobby or influence policing strategies by Lancashire Police towards anti-fracking protests. The harm that may arise from the disclosure of this information is entirely speculative, and there is no evidence that anti-fracking protesters would be likely to target businesses purely on the basis that they have entered into dialogue with the police.

The disclosure of correspondence may, of course, identify some companies that are supporting the fracking industry in some way. In the vast majority of cases, this information will already be in the public domain. For example, it seems reasonable to speculate that companies who have entered into correspondence with you may include the Institute of Directors in Lancashire, or North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce (NWLCC), as named representatives of both organisations have spoken to the press and issued press releases making allegations about anti-fracking campaigners and demanding tougher action by the police. Babs Murphy, chief executive of the NWLCC, went as far as telling the Times on 21 March 2017 that she had written to the Chief Constable. For reference, see https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/anti-...

In the event that correspondence mentions other companies on the issue of fracking, it is entirely possibly to redact their names and even any of their identifying features (such as where they are based). This would negate any speculative or imagined risk to them arising from disclosure, although we would expect you to indicate why redactions have been made. In any event, the names of any private individuals identified in correspondence could be redacted to protect their privacy.

In refusing our request, you have also made ra eference to confidential information, although you do not appear to be relying on a section 41 exemption (Information provided in confidence). If you subsequently rely on this exemption, we will argue that the information requested is not private or commercially sensitive, but relates to issues of considerable public interest and concern about the balance made by Lancashire Police between the interests of powerful business organisations and the right to freedom of assembly – and how much influence one side has in the way policing strategy is developed.

This is the legitimate public interest that our request is seeking to understand and any correspondence you hold on it does not have the necessary quality of confidentiality.

Furthermore, given public statements made by the National Police Chiefs Council's National Protest Working Group in relation to transparency and open dialogue over the policing of anti-fracking protests, it seems wholly unreasonable for companies supporting the fracking industry – or indeed, fracking companies themselves – to attempt to rely upon a relationship of confidence. The NPCC's 2015 guidance, 'Policing Linked to Onshore Oil and Gas Operations', concludes by insisting that an “open, transparent and consistent approach will clearly demonstrate the commitment of the Police Service to act in a reasonable and proportionate manner”.

The NPCC added in August 2016 that “it is the aim of the police service to be as transparent as possible” in policing anti-fracking protests, saying that “the mechanism by which this is achieved is through the continuous partnership process and open dialogue with the police, self-regulation and the building of trust”. Releasing the correspondence we have asked for is entirely in line with this assurance.

You will know that there are significant public concerns about whether corporate interests involved in the fracking industry are asserting disproportionate influence over local policing. There is also a substantial public interest in the influence the Home Office exercises on local police decision-making in regard to protest policing.

Ignoring these concerns and the transparency necessary to alleviate them risks further undermining trust between local people who oppose fracking and the police. In the long term, this may have a far greater detrimental impact on the legacy that follows current protests, including the impact on future prevention of crime, than Lancashire Police deciding now to favour greater openness.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

Yours faithfully,

Kevin Blowe
Coordinator
The Network for Policing Monitoring (Netpol)(

Information assurance unit, Lancashire Constabulary

If you are emailing a valid Freedom of Information request please treat
this as a formal acknowledgement.

 

Your request will now be considered in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000, known hereafter as ‘the Act’. You should receive a
response within the statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined in
the Act (from when Lancashire Constabulary receive a valid request).

 

Please note that disclosure is subject to the information not being exempt
or containing a reference to a third party.

 

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.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in
Lancashire Constabulary.

 

Regards,

 

Compliance Team

Professional Standards Department

Information Compliance and Disclosure Section

Lancashire Constabulary Headquarters

 

Tel: 01772 413329

Email: [1][email address]

 

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References

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1. mailto:[email address]

Melling, Carl, Lancashire Constabulary

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Blowe

 

Please find attached a response to your request for an internal review of
the response to your FOIA request, ref 1619/17.

 

regards

Carl Melling LLM MBA ACIS

Information Assurance Manager

Lancashire Constabulary 

Information Assurance and Vetting Section, Police Headquarters

Tel: 01772 413327 website:  [1]www.lancashire.police.uk  Email:
[2][email address]

 

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http://www.lancashire.police.uk/
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