Dales Timber Ltd fraud investigation

Neil Wilby made this Freedom of Information request to Durham 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 Durham Constabulary,

In July or August 2013 Durham Constabulary were asked, on behalf of North Yorkshire Police, to investigate alleged fraud concerning a company called Dales Timber Ltd. The case attracted widespread publicity, including in the national press.

The information I seek can be summarised as follows:

1. The operational codename given to the investigation.

2. The terms of reference.

3. The name of the Gold Commander.

4. A copy of the Gold book (otherwise known as policy log or policy book). It is accepted that this will be redacted to exclude personal information/policing techniques

5. A copy of the investigation outcome/report. It is accepted that this will be redacted to exclude personal information/policing techniques.

6. The amount charged by Durham Constabulary to North Yorkshire Police as the cost of the investigation

Yours faithfully,

Neil Wilby

Freedom of Information, Durham Constabulary

Your request has been received by Durham Constabulary's Information Rights
& Disclosure Unit and will be actioned accordingly. If you have any
queries please contact 0191 375 2596 Mondays to Fridays between the hours
of 7.45am and 5pm.

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Freedom of Information, Durham Constabulary

1 Attachment

Please find our response attached.

 

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Durham Constabulary’s response to your request is attached.

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Dear Durham Constabulary,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Durham Constabulary's handling of my FOI request 'Dales Timber Ltd fraud investigation'.

The grounds for complaint are as follows:

1. The Act requires a data controller to deal with requests PROMPTLY. A refusal to disclose any of the information - even the operational name of investigation - was given on the 18th working day. The Act and the Guidance given by the Information Commissioner's Office makes it clear that the 20th working day is very much a backstop.

2. The exemption relied upon not to disclose any of the information is set out in Section 14(1) of the Act. The test for a request to be deemed as such is “a manifestly unjustified, inappropriate or improper use of FOIA” (Information Commissioner v Devon County Council & Dransfield [2012] UKUT 440 (AAC)). The instant request does not go anywhere near reaching that threshold.

3. The data controller in his finalisation helpfully refers to ICO Guidance, which sets out the following considerations and I deal with each of them in turn:

(i) Would complying with the request impose a significant burden?

- The data controller makes no submissions in this regard. My own submission is concise: The request places no significant burden on Durham Constabulary. The requested information should be readily to hand and in concise form.

(ii)  Is it fair to regard the request as obsessive?

- The data controller's reasons given here are a curiousity. They are bland assertions with no attempt, whatsoever, to evidence them. As part of the response to this internal review the onus is on the data controller to furnish proof. Reliance on a 'belief' that gives the appearance of being largely implanted by a senior officer from another police force, places the data controller outside of the framework of the Act.

- Furthermore, the data controller submits as part of his finalisation that 'These matters were fully investigated in 2012 and 2013 by North Yorkshire Police and Durham Constabulary'. That is a palpably false assertion and I hold witness evidence from the two victims of the alleged fraud that the matters were NOT fully investigated and that important lines of enquiry were missed. I also hold incontrovertible evidence that a senior officer within North Yorkshire Police wrote to the two fraud suspects in familiar, friendly terms to advise them that the investigation had 'cleared' them whilst it was, in fact, still ongoing.

- There is nothing in my knowledge to support the assertion that any part of the Dales Timber Ltd investigation, any officers involved in it, or those accused of fraud, were referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The data controller does not burden me with any evidence to support that assertion. By contrast, I have obtained my own information from the IPCC via my rights under the Act, with whom I have very regular dealings, that tends to suggest no such referral connected to the Dales Timber case was ever made. As set out above, the burden is on the data controller to clearly show why disclosure against the information request cannot be made and, as part of the internal review, I require all such relevant materials to de disclosed: Or, confirmation that they do not exist.

- The data controller again relies on 'belief' to make unevidenced assertions that have no grounding in fact. I completely reject the threadbare proposition that the request has anything other than a legitimate intention to hold the data controller to account for his actions - which appear dishonest on their face - and the misuse of public funds in deploying resources on investigations that have no other purpose than frustrating complainants and/or victims.

- Similarly, there is no evidence disclosed concerning alleged 'personal issues'. Such an assertion is completely baseless and highly offensive to a press card carrying investigative journalist/justice campaigner trying to go about his daily vocation. Furthermore, this section of the finalisation is viewed as a continuation of the well-entrenched police service policy to smear those who seek to criticise. The Hillsborough Disaster is the most high profile example of that obnoxious and unethical practice. A matter in which I have been closely involved with bereaved families, pen 3/4 survivors and fellow campaigners for a number of years. They too, were described as obsessive, vexatious - and even vindictive - as far back as 1998 (by HMIC Sir Dan Crompton) as they sought via legitimate means, and always in dignified terms, the truth about police misconduct and criminality.

(iii)  Is the request harassing the authority or causing distress to staff?

- The data controller makes no submissions in this regard. My own submission is concise: The request is short, plainly expressed and cannot, conceivably, have been construed to cause distress, alarm or harassment.

(iv)  Is it designed to cause disruption or annoyance?

- The data controller makes no submissions in this regard. My own submission is concise: The request falls squarely within the terms of the Act, as part of my own professional remit and is not disruptive or annoying in the ordinary meaning of those words. Conversely, and perversely, I submit as part of this complaint that the finalisation of this request by the data controller was designed with those very purposes in mind. It is intended to disrupt my vocation as an investigative journalist and annoy me to the extent that the data controller has grasped this as an opportunity to smear, vex and harass.

(v)  Does it lack any serious purpose or value?

- Again the data controller relies on unevidenced and falsely grounded generalisations and, in doing so, places himself outside the framework of the Act. The case for the request not having serious purpose or value is, therefore, not made out by the data controller.

- Furthermore, the propensity to smear also reaches it's peak at this juncture. It is an unveiled attack on the work I do as an investigative journalist and justice campaigner: A good deal of which is notably successful in unpicking police misconduct and, in some cases (notably Operation Lamp), criminality.

- The claim that I have made many other requests focusing on ‘alleged misconduct offences of police officers and others’ is both demonstrably false and completely irrelevant in the context of the instant request. In any event, it is necessary under the Act for each data controller to treat each request for information strictly on it’s merits. I can find no reference in the Act, Authorised Professional Practice or ICO Guidance to Durham Constabulary being the spokesmen, or arbiters, or filter for information requests made to, or about, other policing bodies.

- The proposition that ‘historically, comprehensive investigations have been carried out into the miscarriages of justice or other areas of my work by the police service and the IPCC’ is both speculative and fanciful. Insofar as it is relevant, and in my submission it most certainly is not, I cannot see one single matter into which I have enquired that has been investigated by the IPCC. Including, for example, two that most certainly should have been:

- I have established via information requests that North Yorkshire Police (in respect of officers of the rank below chief constable) and the NYPCC (in respect of the chief constable or temporary chief constable) have not made appropriate Recordable Conduct (or in later cases Conduct) referrals.

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/20-0...

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim...

Other information requests made by me have established, for example, information and data breaches on an industrial scale; defects in delegation of appropriate authority; 999/101 call centre failings on an industrial scale; wide scale abuse of local resolution in resolving police complaints; defects in the processes to appoint two deputy PCC’s; the propensity by South Yorkshire Police to continue to cover up for the disgraced Sir Norman Bettison; scandalous use of public funds by senior police officers by way of awarding themselves free legal fees to pursue personal claims via the civil courts (the treating of public funds as a personal piggy bank, by senior NYP officers is, of course, a matter about which there has been peristent press and public controversy over the last two decades, to my own certain knowledge). The requests concerning the latter led to a story in the national press as recently as 31st August, 2016:

https://www.scribd.com/document/32317185...

The remaining requests include statistics concerning police officers being assaulted by DP’s spitting at them; blood diseases contracted as a result of assault on police officers by spitting; out-turn from two PCC surveys; numbers of Scrutiny Board podcast viewers; Single Action Tenders. These are far, far removed from the proposition advanced by the data controller and as such I, quite reasonably, reject it in it's entirely.

Every request I make has a specific and well-justified purpose. Their value to the wider world is, in most cases, the exposure of organisational failings in policing bodies with a view to forcing change/improvement. That is one of the traditional, essential and societal roles of the media, and journalists engaged within it: To hold public bodies to account. What this particular data controller is attempting to do, both with the manner of his finalisation of the instant request, and by straying beyond the Act and into the realms of censorship, is inimical to a free and democratic society. Durham Constabulary needs to exercise great care in positioning itself in such a way - and I will be publishing an article on that very topic as a permanent reminder to both the force and it’s data controller.

4. The data controller then introduces a quite separate test, outside the confines of Section 14(2) of the Act, headed 'Public Interest and the Value of Requests'. Insofar, as it is necessary to respond, I draw attention to the article referred to above, ‘North Yorks Boors’. There is very considerable and ongoing national press interest in the matter of the suspects of the fraud allegations being provided with around £100,000 of public money to pursue what was, essentially, a personal vendetta by a former public official against one of her critics. Viewed through a wider miscarriage of justice lens, the inefficacy of the Durham Constabulary ‘investigation’ remains deeply troubling and of significant public concern.

The argument advanced by the data controller threadbare as it is, accordingly, falls.

5 a. Judge Wikeley in 'Dransfield' further held that "(classifying a request as vexatious) must not be used to avoid being held to account, or simply because the public authority faces a request the objective reason for which is not immediately self-evident". It is my submission that the data controller is seeking to avoid scrutiny over what is perceived by the victims of the alleged Dales Timber Ltd fraud (Mr Jeremy and Mrs Karen Miller) to be a woefully inadequate investigation that had a pre-determined outcome.

b. That accords with my own single previous experience of Durham Constabulary, as complaints advocate to the family of ex-PC Danny Major: An investigation of parts of the complaints made by Mrs Bernadette Major (Danny's mother), was undertaken in 2008 by Durham Constabulary, on behalf of West Yorkshire Police (WYP). That ‘investigation’ was so demonstrably lacking in rigour, and so deficient in basic investigative doctrine, that it can fairly be described as, at its best, incompetent and falsely grounded. The WYP PSD detectives dealing with the complaints at the time, ex-DI Damian Carr and ex-DC Mick Vause (later convicted as a paedophile), laughed at Mrs Major and told her that the complaints investigated by Durham Constabulary would not be upheld. Vause’s prosecution for the child abuse image offences was, incidentally, brought into the domain of the regional and national press only as a result of my own dogged efforts along with a serving officer whistleblower. WYP were, for their part, desperate to conceal that fact.

It took another 7 years before Ian Hanson, the Chairman of the Greater Manchester Police Federation was able to say about the Danny Major case: "...at best this is abject incompetence on a scale I have never seen before, at worst there could be criminal offences here. Any inquiry has got to establish where on that scale the failings apply". As I was responsible for the Major family’s input into the terms of reference for the GMP investigation into WYP PSD, I know, unconstrained by the diplomatic stance Mr Hanson is obliged to adopt, precisely where on the scale those failings are.

Read more at: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/expl...

For the record, it has been said many times - by both the Major family and Greater Manchester Police officers - that without my own efforts to shine light on this grotesque miscarriage of justice, no external investigation would have taken place. An integral part of my work on both this case, and on other high profile miscarriage of justice cases upon which I am privileged to be invited to assist, is obtaining disclosure of data and information by legitimate means. Upon reading the data controller’s finalisation of the instant request, the mythical man on the Clapham omnibus may well take the view that Durham Constabulary would, for example, have preferred for Danny Major to remain falsely convicted - and the world to be none the wiser about the paedophile detective that WYP PSD had concealed in their ranks.

c. The very same Clapham omnibus traveller may then, in the light of paras 3a and 3b above, be entitled to take the view that Durham Constabulary is a grubby little police force prepared to do 'favours' for other police forces when undertaking investigations on their behalf. The manner of the finalisation of the instant information request would tend to support the evidence of that proposition: It has all the hallmarks of collusion with North Yorkshire Police – and/or it’s PCC’s office - and a pre-determined outcome that bears no credible relationship with the data controller's responsibilities under the Act.

6. The other test examined by Judge Wikeley in Dransfield - and not mentioned at all in the data controller's finalisation - is that a request is not part of a series of other requests made to the data controller. For the avoidance of doubt, this is my first, and only, request to Durham Constabulary. It is my first, and only, request concerning the Dales Timber Ltd investigation.

7. The finalisation of the request discloses my personal data, in clear breach of the Data Protection Act. In the absence of appropriate remedy offered by the data controller, I will seek redress via the civil courts.

8. Instead of receiving disclosure in the anticipated manner, I have been moved to make this request for internal review, which is one of over 2,600 words. It is drafted very much with a potential future referral to the ICO/FTT, and civil proceedings, in mind. There is a pivotal point of principle at stake here - and I will be seeking to enlist the support of my union (the National Union of Journalists) to ensure the just outcome.

Summary

This finalisation is a sub-optimal response that simply reeks of sententious piety. It is also oppressive, completely lacking in objectivity and driven by political imperative, rather than cold analysis.

Information requests are, by definition under the Act, applicant blind and the overriding presumption under the Act is for disclosure not a satellite police investigation into my activities as a journalist. It is a gross abuse of his responsibilities of the Act by the data controller (a chief constable), and of the Code of Ethics by officers engaged by him to deal with requests, under delegated powers, to turn an information request into a personal attack on the motives, professionalism and integrity of an NUJ-accredited journalist.

The image of a police force – and the man that leads it – setting about a serious task with a concluded (and falsely grounded) sense of purpose should be one that every right-thinking person in this country finds abhorrent. The data controller/chief constable will be offered right of reply, via your press office in the usual way, to the article that is presently being drafted on that theme. That should also provide all involved with a further measure of the wider public interest in the matter. The police ‘cover-up’ is generally a bigger story than the uncovering of wrongdoing. That is the way of the world.

In those circumstances, I request that a response to this complaint is treated as a priority. In the meantime, all other rights of lawful remedy against the chief constable of Durham Constabulary are reserved.

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

Yours faithfully,

Neil Wilby
Investigative journalist

Freedom of Information, Durham Constabulary

Good Morning,

I can confirm your request for an Internal Review has been received, the matter has been passed to the Head of information Rights and Disclosure Unit, who will be in touch with you in due course.

Thanks

Information Rights and Disclosure Supervisor
Professional Standards and Legal Services
Durham Constabulary
Email: [email address]
Telephone: 0191 375 2594 Internal 752594

Delivering excellent policing, inspiring confidence in victims and our communities, by:
Protecting Neighbourhoods
Tackling Criminals
Solving Problems
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‘Integrity instils confidence’

Dear Freedom of Information,

Two points:

1. It is unethical, unprofessional and discourteous to send out anonymous communications. Not one of the many other policing bodies with whom I deal indulges in this practice. A matter readily checked by viewing my other requests on this website.

2. Is it the practice for Durham Constabulary to 'mark their own homework' when dealing with complaints? It would seem highly improbable to the independent observer that your Head of information Rights and Disclosure Unit didn't have significant input into the finalisation of the information request.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Wilby
Investigative journalist

Dear Freedom of Information,

You have failed to provide a response to the internal review sent on 15th November, 2016 and acknowledged by you on 16th November, 2016.

Further, you have provided no response at all to the two highly relevant points sent to you via email on 16th November, 2016

The manner of dealing with this information request, and subsequent internal review request could safely be characterised as inefficient, evasive and unethical. This is not a good model for Durham Constabulary to adopt in a highly visible business area but, as a 'grubby little police force', it is not at all unexpected.

Nevertheless, the matters of the failure to disclose the requested information and the lack of finalisation of the internal review (or any explanation as to it's absence) has been passed today to the Information Commissioner's Office as a complaint.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Wilby
Investigative journalist

Freedom of Information, Durham Constabulary

Leigh,

For your information.

Steve T.

Stephen R. Taylor,
Disclosure Supervisor,
Information Rights & Disclosure,
Professional Standards & Legal Services,
Durham Constabulary.

Tel: 0191 375 2596 (external)
Tel: 75 2596 (internal)
e-mail: [email address]

“Delivering excellent policing, inspiring confidence in victims and our communities, by:
Protecting Neighbourhoods
Tackling Criminals
Solving Problems
…Around the clock”

‘Integrity instils confidence’

Freedom of Information, Durham Constabulary

Dear Mr Wilby,

 

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION Act 2000 REQUEST REFERENCE NO: 859/16

 

I write in connection with your request for information about a fraud
investigation concerning Dales Timbers Ltd. Your request was received by
Durham Constabulary on 15th October 2016.  

 

In accordance with Force procedure, the file was forwarded to me to carry
out a review of the original Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA 2000)
decision of 10th November 2016 and the purpose of writing is to inform you
of the outcome of my review in relation to your request. I can confirm I
am a new and more senior Freedom of Information Act decision maker.

 

I can confirm that Durham Constabulary’s internal review process provides
the mechanism for the original decision to be considered afresh. Please
note this review process does allow the original decision to be partially
or completely overturned.

 

Internal Review Decision:

 

I can confirm I have very carefully assessed the original decision factors
plus your grounds of appeal for the refusal, as detailed within your email
of 15th November 2016.

 

After carefully weighing up both sides of the argument, the conclusion I
have arrived at, following what I contend was a thorough review process
completed in an open minded and equitable manner, was that the decision
taken by the original decision maker was the correct decision.  I am
therefore upholding the original decision to apply the Section 14 (1)
(Vexatious requests) exemption to your information request.

 

Reasons for My Internal Review Decision:

 

Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA 2000) – ‘General
right of access to information held by public authorities’ - places two
duties on public authorities.  Unless exemptions apply, the first duty at
Section 1(1) (a) is to confirm or deny whether the information specified
in a request is held.  The second duty at Section 1 (1) (b) is to disclose
information that has been confirmed as being held.  Where exemptions are
relied upon Section 17 of the FOIA  2000 requires that we provide the
applicant with a notice which: a) states that fact b) specifies the
exemption(s) in question and c) state (if that would not otherwise be
apparent) why the exemption applies.

 

Refusal Notice:

 

In accordance with Section 17 (1) of the FOIA 2000, this letter acts as a
refusal notice for this request. As detailed above, the Section 14 (1)
exemption is being claimed for this information request – this Section,
namely 14 (1) ‘does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request
for information if the request is vexatious.’

 

Your request is considered vexatious when viewed in context, as it is
clearly a continuation of a pattern of behaviour and is part of an ongoing
campaign of complaints and harassment against North Yorkshire Police and
the now defunct North Yorkshire Police Authority.

 

If you are dissatisfied with my review decision in this case, you have the
right to refer this matter to the Information Commissioner; the contact
details being:

 

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

 

Telephone Number: 01625 545700

Web Site: www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Senior Manager,

Durham Constabulary.

 

 

To: Neil Wilby -  [FOI #365138 email]

 

DURHAM CONSTABULARY, Protecting Neighbourhoods, Tackling Criminals,
Solving Problems…Around the Clock

NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICING: Use your postcode to get access to local news and
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Dear Freedom of Information,

The response you have provided to my request for internal review is, amongst other manifest failings and abuses, highly defamatory.

Accordingly, I am instructing my solicitor to issue a letter before claim against the Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary seeking a retraction, a public apology and damages.

Quite separately, your finalisation of the information request and internal review outcome has been referred to the ICO for determination.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Wilby
Investigative journalist

For the attention of Stephen R Taylor

Dear Mr Taylor

I refer to the request made on this What Do They Know thread on 15th October, 2016.

The finalisation dated 10th November, 2017 was anonymous, as was the email carrying it. There wasn't even a job title of the author of either document. This is unprecedented in my experience as an accredited journalist who deals with a significant number of policing bodies.

The internal review dated 5th January, 2017 was also anonymised. It carried the rather enigmatic sign-off by a 'Senior Manager'.

Following my complaint to the ICO, of which you are doubtless aware, I am informed that the Decision Notice (DN) will be published to the parties, and on the ICO website next week. The ICO have told me, in writing, that the section 14 exemption has not been upheld. They have also intimated that 'seriously improper conduct' by Durham Police in the finalisation of the request is engaged. That comes as no surprise, as my barrister, Peter Cherry of St Philips Chambers, told me unequivocally, in written opinion given in January, 2017, that the postings on the What Do They Know website were highly defamatory.

Having waited patiently for that DN to be finalised, I am now in a position to issue (i) civil proceedings against the chief constable over the serious breaches of my personal data under section 13(1) and (2) of the Act. By which I will seek damages, declaratory relief and non-monetary relief: (ii) a Code of Ethics complaint against the chief constable (as data controller); (iii) Code of Ethics complaints against the officer (or officers) responsible for the two defamatory and seriously improper finalisations: and (iv) the Deputy Chief Constable as portfolio holder for information services.

It is inconceivable (to me at least) that what was written on this What Do They Know thread, twice, could have been done without the approval of either the DCC, or the chief constable. It is on that basis that complaints will be made against her.

The complaint against the chief constable will be made to the PCVC, as appropriate authority; the complaints against the officer(s) involved in the finalisations and the DCC will be made to the chief constable (or his delegate) as appropriate authority. The allegations may amount to at least one criminal offence.

Accordingly, I require you to provide the name(s) of the officer(s) involved in the finalisations referred to above so that the complaints can be drafted and submitted accordingly.

I am approaching you as the only officer named on the What Do They Know thread (see posting dated 15th December, 2016). You also have a managerial role in the relevant department.

The PCVC's office has been copied in to a similar communication sent to your Durham Constabularly email address, as are the Professional Standards Department and the IPCC. The allegations are of such seriousness that a mandatory referral to the IPCC must be considered by the appropriate authorities.

I look forward to hearing from you, or an appropriately senior colleague not likely to be cited in the complaints, with the requisite information, by return post on this What Do They Know Thread. The readers and users of this website are entitled to know who was prepared to make such personally damaging, distressing and harassing postings (known on the internet as trolling). Particularly, as your chief constable has stridently called for an end to such online abuse, as recently as the end of July, 2017.

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/cr...

Amongst other disciplinary sanctions, I will be inviting What Do They Know to ban the Durham Constabulary officers responsible for the defamatory postings on this thread from the website.

For the avoidance of doubt, there is no evidence, so far at least, that you were an officer responsible for either of the offensive postings.

Yours sincerely

Neil Wilby
Investigative journalist

Twitter: @Neil_Wilby
Web: neilwilby.com

Freedom of Information, Durham Constabulary

Your request has been received by Durham Constabulary's Information Rights
& Disclosure Unit and will be actioned accordingly. If you have any
queries please contact 0191 375 2596 Mondays to Fridays between the hours
of 7.45am and 5pm.

DURHAM CONSTABULARY, Protecting Neighbourhoods, Tackling Criminals,
Solving Problems…Around the Clock

NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICING: Use your postcode to get access to local news and
events from your Neighbourhood Policing Team, at
https://www.durham.police.uk

This email carries a disclaimer, a copy of which may be read at
https://www.durham.police.uk/Pages/E-Mai...

Neil Wilby left an annotation ()

By way of a Decision Notice dated 9th October, 2017 the Information Commissioner overturned the section 14 vexatious exemption.

Durham Constabulary were given 35 days from that date to provide a new response to the information request.

Kieran Casey left an annotation ()

The ICO decision notice can be found here: https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...

Leigh Davison, Durham Constabulary

Dear Mr Wilby,

 

I write in relation to your  below Freedom of Information Act 2000
request, the Force's original decision, the Force’s subsequent internal
review decision and the ICO's recent decision notice of 9th October 2017.

 

I can confirm on behalf of Durham Constabulary (the Force), I have now
answered your questions as below (each answer is in blue and  follows each
individual question) , as per the information held by the Force at the
time of your information request of 15^th October 2016 and also at this
time point too.

 

 

 I can confirm all investigative material held by Durham Constabulary was
handed over to North Yorkshire Police, following the conclusion of the
Force’s case. I hope this is of assistance to you.

 

Yours sincerely L. Davison

 

L. Davison

Head of Information Rights & Disclosure Unit

Professional Standards & Legal Services Department

Durham Constabulary

 

Tel: 101 Ext: 75 2577

 

 

 

Leigh Davison, Durham Constabulary

Dear Mr Wilby,

 

Further to my email of the 5^th November 2017, I cannot see on the What do
they Know website the full answer that I provided you with. Therefore I am
 sending it again in a different format as below.

 

I write in relation to your  below Freedom of Information Act 2000
request, the Force's original decision, the Force’s subsequent internal
review decision and the ICO's recent decision notice of 9th October 2017.

 

I can confirm on behalf of Durham Constabulary (the Force), I have now
answered your questions as below (each answer is in blue and  follows
each individual question) , as per the information held by the Force at
the time of your information request of 15th October 2016 and also at this
time point too.

 

Information Request - In July or August 2013 Durham Constabulary were
asked, on behalf of North Yorkshire Police, to investigate alleged fraud
concerning a company called Dales Timber Ltd. The case attracted
widespread publicity, including in the national press.

 

The information I seek can be summarised as follows:

 

1. The operational codename given to the investigation. Answer – There is
no record of an operational codename being allocated.

 

2. The terms of reference. Answer – Unable to identify this information –
not held.

 

3. The name of the Gold Commander. Answer – Unable to identify this
information – not held. The investigation was conducted by a Detective
Sergeant and a Detective Constable from the Force’s Economic Crime Team
(Fraud Team).

 

4. A copy of the Gold book (otherwise known as policy log or policy book).
It is accepted that this will be redacted to exclude personal
information/policing techniques. Answer – Unable to identify this
information – not held.

 

5. A copy of the investigation outcome/report. It is accepted that this
will be redacted to exclude personal information/policing techniques.
Answer – Unable to identify this information – not held.

 

6. The amount charged by Durham Constabulary to North Yorkshire Police as
the cost of the investigation. Answer – Unable to identify this
information – not held. Without an operational name being
identified/known, the Force’s Finance Department is unable to research
this question.

 

I can confirm all investigative material held by Durham Constabulary was
handed over to North Yorkshire Police, following the conclusion of the
Force’s case. I hope this is of assistance to you.

 

Yours sincerely L. Davison

 

L. Davison

Head of Information Rights & Disclosure Unit

Professional Standards & Legal Services Department

Durham Constabulary

 

Tel: 101 Ext: 75 2577

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Dear Durham Constabulary ("Durham"),

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

I am writing to request a second internal review of Durham Constabulary's handling of my FOI request 'Dales Timber Ltd fraud investigation'.

The grounds for complaint are:

GENERALLY

1. Durham, in a conspiracy with North Yorkshire Police (NYP) has been prepared to commit a number criminal offences in finalising this request; the first internal review; and in submissions to the Information Commissioner's Office ("ICO"): s77 Freedom of Information Act ("the Act"); s2 Protection of Harassment Act; s26 Criminal Justice and Courts Act.

2. The force has also been prepared to breach the Defamation Act, 2013 and my convention rights at Articles 8 and 10.

3. The officers involved in the finalisation of the request, the review and the ICO investigation breached the College of Policing's Code of Ethics to the extent that a properly constituted disciplinary panel would, more likely than not, find them guilty of gross misconduct - and apply sanctions appropriately (up to and including dismissal without notice).

4. It might fairly be regarded as one of the most extraordinary responses in the history of the Act, in its 17 year history.

5. Now Durham claims, in broad terms, that it doesn't hold any of the requested information.

6. Durham further claims it returned all materials to NYP, without leaving any trace on either its paper or electronic systems.

7. On any independent view, both those propositions advanced at paras 5. and 6. are inherently absurd and highly improbable (those words are chosen carefully).

8. The finalisation is in breach of the Act, as no section 17 Refusal Notice has been given.

SPECIFICALLY

9. I now turn to the information request and deal with each question in turn:

Question 1. The operational codename given to the investigation.
Answer – There is no record of an operational codename being allocated.

Question 2. The terms of reference.
Answer – Unable to identify this information – not held.

Question 3. The name of the Gold Commander. Answer – Unable to identify this information – not held. The investigation was conducted by a Detective Sergeant and a Detective Constable from the Force’s Economic Crime Team (Fraud Team).

My Internal Review Submission for Q's 1, 2 and 3: I am an accredited journalist whose area of specialism is police forces and policing bodies. Many regard me as very knowledgeable on the topic. No outside force investigation, in my extensive experience, has ever been carried out without an operational codename being allocated (Q1); Terms of reference being agreed (Q2); and a Gold Commander being appointed (normally an Assistant Chief Constable for a case of this scale, the identity of one of the suspects, and wider public interest) (Q3).

Using the balance of probabilities as the appropriate test, and absent of any reason why this investigation was a very rare exception to the rule, a properly constituted Court or Tribunal would, more likely than not, find that this information is held by Durham.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Question 4. A copy of the Gold book (otherwise known as policy log or policy book). It is accepted that this will be redacted to exclude personal information/policing techniques.
Answer – Unable to identify this information – not held.

Question 5. A copy of the investigation outcome/report. It is accepted that this will be redacted to exclude personal information/policing techniques.
Answer – Unable to identify this information – not held.

My Internal Review Submission on Q4 and Q5: It would not only be a serious breach of Standards of Professional Behaviour, but unethical, sloppy, shabby and, in fact, virtually unheard of in the police service, if a fraud investigation is carried out, on behalf of another police force, in which a former Police Authority Chair is one of the two suspects, and no policy book was kept - and no investigation outcome compiled. The proposition that such information is not held by Durham, quite frankly, is ludicrous.

Using the balance of probabilities as the appropriate test, and absent of any reason why this investigation was a very rare, if not sole, exception to the rule, a properly constituted Court or Tribunal would, more likely than not, find that this information at both Q4 and Q5 is held by Durham.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Question 6. The amount charged by Durham Constabulary to North Yorkshire Police as the cost of the investigation.
Answer – Unable to identify this information – not held. Without an operational name being
identified/known, the Force’s Finance Department is unable to research this question.

My Internal Review Submission on Q6: Disclosure of this class of information is, of course, now interdependent on Question 1. Once the operational codename is disclosed by Durham, then the information concerning the cost of the investigation must follow.
For Durham to state that the information is not held, without having conducted a search, is in breach of the Act, and a lazy, careless response that threads through the rest of the finalisation. A search of all payments made to either NYP, or North Yorkshire Police and Commissioner, in the financial years 2012/13 and 2013/14 (of which there is only likely to be a very small number) would reveal either the information sought, or that the information is not held. That is to say, no payment was made and the investigation was carried out free of charge (as a favour).

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

CONCLUSION:

10. This is an information request finalisation that has First Tier Tribunal written all over it (it is virtually unheard of for the ICO to overturn an 'information not held' internal review). My IR submissions have been prepared accordingly.

11. All other rights of civil and criminal redress are reserved.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NEW INFORMATION REQUEST

12. Copies of all emails, correspondence, telephone notes between (i) Durham and NYP (ii) Durham and North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (iii) Durham and Her Majesty's inspectorate of Constabulary (iv) Durham and the Independent Police Complaints Commission concerning the appointment of Durham to investigate the Dales Timber Ltd fraud on behalf of NYP. (v) Copies of any meeting notes on the same topic.

13. In the interests of efficiency and proportionality, please deal with the new request within this same What Do They Know thread.

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

Yours faithfully,

Neil Wilby
Investigative journalist

Twitter: @Neil_Wilby
Web : neilwilby.com

Freedom of Information, Durham Constabulary

Dear Mr Wilby,

Durham Constabulary acknowledges receipt of the below email and the two separate requests within and I can confirm both requests will be actioned.

Yours sincerely L. Davison,

L. Davison
Head of Information Rights & Disclosure Unit
Professional Standards & Legal Services Department
Durham Constabulary

Tel: 101 Ext: 75 2577
Internal: 75 2577
Direct Dial: 0191 3752577
E-Mail: [email address]

“Delivering excellent policing, inspiring confidence in victims and our communities, by:
Protecting Neighbourhoods
Tackling Criminals
Solving Problems
…Around the clock”

‘Integrity instils confidence’

show quoted sections

Freedom of Information, Durham Constabulary

1 Attachment

Good afternoon,

Please find attached the response to your new information request below.

Kind regards,
A Hattersley
Information Rights and Disclosure Supervisor
Professional Standards & Legal Services Department
Durham Constabulary
“Delivering excellent policing, inspiring confidence in victims and our communities, by:
Protecting Neighbourhoods
Tackling Criminals
Solving Problems
…Around the clock”
‘Integrity instils confidence’

show quoted sections

Dear Durham Constabulary,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of your handling of my FOI request 'Dales Timber Ltd fraud investigation'. The grounds for complaint are as follows:

1. It is inherently absurd that a fraud investigation carried out by Durham Constabulary ("Durham"), on behalf of another police force (North Yorkshire Police), lasting well over a year, leaves no trace of the type of paper and electronic records sought for disclosure in the instant request.

2. Particularly, when the two suspects in the Durham investigation were a former long-standing Chair of North Yorkshire Police Authority and a high profile Scarborough businessman and councillor. At various times, Company Secretary and Director of Dales Timber Ltd., the company at the centre of the criminal allegations made by two persons closely connected to the suspects. They are referred to as CO1 and CO2 in the below article which catalogued the progress in the investigation (the term is used loosely). Or, rather, the lack of it:

http://nyenquirer.uk/the-protection-rack...

3. It is plain from that news article, at para 2, above that the investigation generated a significant amount of both letter and email correspondence - and that ex-NYP DCC Timothy Madgwick was central within it.

4. It was also later revealed in an article I authored in September, 2016 (which led to the original FOIA request to Durham on the topic of Dales Timber) that Mr Madgwick had sought to conceal his personal connections with the suspects from both the fraud victims - and very probably Durham.

https://neilwilby.com/2016/09/10/madgwic...

5. An independent reviewer might well conclude that the protection of the now-tarnished reputation of Mr Madgwick has been central in Durham's strategy since the quite astonishing (and criminal) finalisation by Durham of the first FOIA request on the topic of Dales Timber Ltd.

6. The person conducting the review should state, specifically, the type of records searches undertaken and the business areas within Durham Constabulary that form part of those searches. It is plain that this investigation involved communication between high ranking officers of both Durham and NYP. As it would have to do, by necessity, for an 'outside force' investigation to have been undertaken in the first place.

7. The internal review finalisation should also make very clear how and why, if the 'information not held' position is maintained, exactly how this state of affairs has arisen and what action (disciplinary or criminal) has been taken against those officers responsible for removing, destroying the records of the investigation.

8. Finally, please note that all rights of complaint under section 77 of the Act are, herewith, reserved. The six-month time limit for prosecution will run from the date of Durham's internal review finalisation.

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

Yours faithfully,

Neil Wilby
Investigaive journalist

Twitter: @Neil_Wilby
Web: neilwilby.com

Freedom of Information, Durham Constabulary

Good afternoon,

I acknowledge receipt of your request below for an Internal Review of the response sent on FOI 1029/17. The request will be passed to an internal reviewer who will contact you in due course.

Kind regards,
A Hattersley
Information Rights and Disclosure Supervisor
Professional Standards & Legal Services Department
Durham Constabulary
“Delivering excellent policing, inspiring confidence in victims and our communities, by:
Protecting Neighbourhoods
Tackling Criminals
Solving Problems
…Around the clock”
‘Integrity instils confidence’

show quoted sections

Freedom of Information, Durham Constabulary

Dear Mr Wilby,

I write to inform you that Durham Constabulary is aiming to complete the second internal review request from you in respect of FOI 859/16 within a reasonable timeframe, by the 11th January 2018. This review will be completed by a new and senior postholder.

Yours sincerely L. Davison,

L. Davison
Head of Information Rights & Disclosure Unit
Professional Standards & Legal Services Department
Durham Constabulary

Tel: 101 Ext: 75 2577
Internal: 75 2577
Direct Dial: 0191 3752577
E-Mail: [email address]

“Delivering excellent policing, inspiring confidence in victims and our communities, by:
Protecting Neighbourhoods
Tackling Criminals
Solving Problems
…Around the clock”

‘Integrity instils confidence’

show quoted sections

Dear Freedom of Information,

College of Policing's Authorised Professional Practice (APP) requires you to respond to requests for internal review PROMPTLY. Or, in any event, within 20 working days. In the case of the instant review request that is 6th January, 2017 (allowing for three Bank Holidays).

The review request is uncomplicated and requires no special effort, or expertise. Any delay would, therefore, be prima facie unreasonable.

https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-co...

It should also be noted that this is a statutory obligation on the part of police forces, as APP is embedded within section 39A of the Police Act, 1996 (College of Policing's Code of Ethics).

http://www.college.police.uk/What-we-do/...

APP also requires that police forces communicate effectively and explain any contemplated delays. You have not offered any reason at all for the delay. That is entirely consistent with all my other dealings with Durham, who appear utterly incapable of performing even the simplest tasks with a modicum of efficiency and in an appropriately timely manner.

Section 77 of the Act may also be engaged, as the history of this request discloses deliberate wrongdoing by Durham that is now exacerbated by the refusal to provide an internal review response within the statutory timescale (or the timescale provided for in Section 45 of the Act [Code of Practice] and the Information's Commissioner's Guidance on internal reviews (which largely mirrors s45).

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/200...

Accordingly, I look forward to receiving the internal review request by 6th January, 2018 at the very latest.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Wilby
Investigative journalist

Twitter: @Neil_Wilby
Web: neilwilby.com

Chris Southey, Durham Constabulary

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Wilby,

 

Please find attached my review of the responses by Durham Constabulary to
your two FOI requests relating to an investigation into Dales Timber Ltd.

 

 

Chris Southey

Solicitor

Durham Constabulary

 

0191-375-2571

 

 

This e-mail is intended only for the person(s) to whom it is addressed,
and may contain privileged or confidential information. If you have
received this in error, please contact the sender immediately.

 

Any disclosure,forwarding,copying or alteration of this e-mail or of any
attachments to it is strictly forbidden, save with the express permission
of Durham Constabulary Legal Services.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Freedom of Information, Durham Constabulary

8 Attachments

Good afternoon Mr Wilby,

 

Please find attached the second response in relation to your request and
the Investigation Report.

 

Kind regards,

A Hattersley

Information Rights and Disclosure Supervisor

Professional Standards & Legal Services Department

Durham Constabulary

“Delivering excellent policing, inspiring confidence in victims and our
communities, by:

Protecting Neighbourhoods

Tackling Criminals

Solving Problems

…Around the clock”

‘Integrity instils confidence’     

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DURHAM CONSTABULARY, Protecting Neighbourhoods, Tackling Criminals,
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NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICING: Use your postcode to get access to local news and
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References

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Dear Freedom of Information,

The latest outcome to this information request is, like the previous two finalisations and the internal review requests that followed, dishonestly grounded in my respectful submission.

It also, unsurprisingly, conflicts with a finalisation on the same Dales Timber topic by North Yorkshire Police. Another police force that is readily inclined to decorate the truth when facts run against them.

Accordingly, a second complaint is to be made to the Information Commissioner's Office in this regard.

The above comments will also be largely replicated in my witness evidence to be filed and served in county court proceedings, already issued against your force, concerning what is alleged to be a dishonestly grounded finalisation of a data subject access request.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Wilby
Investigative journalist

Twitter: @Neil_Wilby
Web: neilwilby.com

Freedom of Information, Durham Constabulary

Your request has been received by Durham Constabulary's Information Rights
& Disclosure Unit and will be actioned accordingly. If you have any
queries please contact 0191 375 2596 Mondays to Fridays between the hours
of 7.45am and 5pm.

DURHAM CONSTABULARY, Protecting Neighbourhoods, Tackling Criminals,
Solving Problems…Around the Clock

NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICING: Use your postcode to get access to local news and
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