Criminal investigation into Hilbre Island building works incidents

Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller made this Freedom of Information request to Marine Management Organisation

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

The request was partially successful.

Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller

Dear Marine Management Organisation,

In a previous FOI request you confirmed that MMO was carrying out a criminal investigation re the building works incidents on Hilbre Island summer 2019, which resulted in environmental damage to a SSSI site and marine life.
Can you please let me know :
1. Whether the investigations have finished?
2. If Yes, with which results?
3. Will there be a court case?

Thank you for your time with my questions.
Yours faithfully,

Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller

SM-MMO-MMO Access to Information, Marine Management Organisation

Dear Birgitta,

Thank you for your request for information about the Hilbre Island investigation, which we received on 25th January 2020. We are dealing with your request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs)

As required by the legislation, we aim to answer your request as soon as possible and in any event within 20 working days from the date we received it (i.e. by 21st February). If for any reason we are unable to meet this deadline, we will keep you fully informed of the reasons for this.

If you require any further advice or assistance, please contact me in the first instance.

Yours sincerely,

Craig West | Communications Officer | Communications | Business Development and Transformation | Marine Management Organisation (MMO)
Direct Line: 0300 123 1032 | Email: [MMO request email]
Address: Lancaster House, Hampshire Court, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 7YH
Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | YouTube |

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SM-MMO-MMO Access to Information, Marine Management Organisation

Dear Birgitta,

I write with reference to your request for information, which was received by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) on 25th September 2020. I can confirm that we are handling your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

I can confirm that the MMO's investigation into the incident at Hilbre Island, West Kirby is still ongoing and, as such, we are unable to provide any further information as to do so may potentially prejudice this process.

Under Section 30(1)(b) of the FOIA, information held by a public authority is exempt if it has been used for ‘any investigation which is conducted by the authority and in the circumstances may lead to a decision by the authority to institute criminal proceedings which the authority has power to conduct.’

We recognise that there is a public interest in accountability and transparency in relation to the activities of public authorities, including the monitoring of compliance, and investigation into potential cases of non-compliance, in areas falling under the remit of such public authorities. These arguments are provided within our application of the public interest test below.

However, there is also a strong public interest in maintaining the exception as we consider that the disclosure of the withheld information would more likely than not adversely affect the course of justice. In this case it could potentially prejudice our ability to deliver effective law enforcement, the need to protect witnesses and informers, the need to maintain the independence of the judicial and prosecution processes, and the need to preserve the criminal court as the sole forum for determining guilt.
Disclosure of this information could undermine the investigation, prosecution or prevention of crime, or the bringing of civil or criminal proceedings by the MMO. As such, we consider that the disclosure of the information requested has the potential to adversely affect the administration of justice, including the operation of the courts and prejudice to the right of the MMO to a fair trial.

Having considered the arguments both for and against the disclosure of the information requested, we consider the public interest in maintaining the exception to disclosure outweighs those in favour of disclosure.

If you require any further advice or assistance, please contact me in the first instance. Additionally, if you are unhappy with the way the MMO has handled your request for information, you can request an internal review by writing to Internal Reviews, Access to Information, at the MMO, Lancaster House, Hampshire Court, Newcastle Business Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 7YH or e-mail [email address].

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request you have a right to appeal to the ICO. The ICO can be contacted at: Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, SK9 5AF. Tel 0303 123 1113 or http://www.ico.org.uk/complaints. There is no charge for the internal review or making an appeal to the ICO.

Yours sincerely,

Craig West | Communications Officer | Communications | Business Development and Transformation | Marine Management Organisation (MMO)
Direct Line: 0300 123 1032 | Email: [MMO request email]
Address: Lancaster House, Hampshire Court, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 7YH
Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | YouTube |

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Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller

Dear SM-MMO-MMO Access to Information,

Thank you for your response, which is almost identical with the reply to my initial FOI request 2019, when the investigations started.
As you write that you received my FOI request on 25th September 2020 ( which is still to come), I am now confused whether 2 FOI requests have been mixed up.
Can you please let me know
1. Whether the criminal investigations into the Hilbre Island building site incidents from 2019 are still ongoing?
2. By when will you have made a deceision whether the case needs to go to court?

Thank you
Yours sincerely,

Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller

SM-MMO-MMO Access to Information, Marine Management Organisation

Dear Birgitta,

My apologies for any confusion; I can confirm my response relates specifically to your request of 25th January 2020, our ref: ATI2296.

For the avoidance of doubt, the situation regarding Hilbre Island is unchanged; the incident remains subject to an ongoing investigation by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and, as such, I'm afraid we're unable to comment further.

Regarding timescale, I'm sure you'll appreciate undertaking such an investigation can be a complex and lengthy process so it is not possible at this stage to give an indication as to when this will be completed, nor the likely outcome of this process.

In the meanwhile, and as I explained in our last exchange back in September/October 2019, the MMO welcomes any and all information or evidence relating to potential offending or ongoing investigations. This can be submitted either to your local MMO office (details of which can be found on our website, www.gov.uk/mmo), or to any MMO officer who will pass this on to the relevant team for consideration. You can reach the MMO by telephone on 0300 123 1032 or via email to [email address]

If you do have any information or evidence relating to the incident at Hilbre Island, we would be happy to discuss this confidentially and outside the scope of this FOI request.

I hope this helps but please let me know if you require anything further.

Kind regards,

Craig

Craig West | Communications Officer | Communications | Business Development and Transformation | Marine Management Organisation (MMO)
Tel: 0300 123 1032 | Email: [MMO request email]
Address: Lancaster House, Hampshire Court, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 7YH
Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | YouTube |

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Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller

Dear Craig from MMO
Thank you very much for your swift response and clarification of the situation.

Yours sincerely,

Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller