Investigation Hilbre Island cave incidents 2019

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,

Please, could you tell me if your organisation is making or intends making an enquiry into the cause of the recent fire in a cave and subsequent clean-up operations of Hilbre Islands that was reported, for example,

Emergency services called to fire in cave on Hilbre Island, West Kirby
https://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/17858...

If an enquiry is to be held, I shall be grateful if you will let me know its aims and intentions, where, when, who is to be called to be given evidence and, later, send me a copy of the final report.

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 recent incident at Hillbre Island, which we received on 14th September 2019. We are dealing with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and/or 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 11th October 2019). 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, our ref: ATI2172, which was received by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) on 14th September 2019. I can confirm that we are handling your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

I can confirm that the recent incident at Hilbre Island, West Kirby is subject to a criminal investigation by the MMO. 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 the advice 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,

Garry Dando PC.dp PC.foi I Customer and Access to Information Manager I Her Majesty’s Government – Marine Management Organisation I
Telephone: 0208 026 5220 I Website | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin | Blog |Instagram | Flickr | YouTube | Google+ | Pinterest

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Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller

Dear SM-MMO-MMO Access to Information,
Thank you for your response to my request- confirming that MMO is carrying out an investigation additionally to the internal WBC review of the cave incidents.
I can understand your reasoning for non disclosure of details but would like to uphold my question re witnesses.
1.How do you choose witnesses?
2.Can people contact you with information? If yes, how?
3. Which part of the Hilbre works is subject to the criminal investigation : just the fire or the whole works including decision making re materials, supervision of the work etc? Which kind of evidence from witnesses is needed?
Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller

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

Dear Birgitta,

Thank you for your follow-up email. To address the points you've raised:

1.How do you choose witnesses?
This process depends very much on the circumstances surrounding the potential offences and can vary based on what information is being provided, or is needed to determine the points required to prove any wrongdoing. Witnesses are usually individuals that can offer evidence of any potential offending, or provide either corroborative or circumstantial evidence to assist in the detail of what has occurred. If there are multiple witnesses, generally the most suitable is selected depending on what evidence is being presented as part of the case. Notably, while all such information is useful, it may not always be required to prove the offending.

2.Can people contact you with information? If yes, how?
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]

3. Which part of the Hilbre works is subject to the criminal investigation : just the fire or the whole works including decision making re materials, supervision of the work etc? Which kind of evidence from witnesses is needed?
The MMO is tasked to look at the requirements of activity below the mean high water springs mark (the highest level which spring tides reach on average over a period of time above chart datum) and ascertain whether said activity would be construed as requiring a marine licence or could cause environmental harm (the actual scope of what the MMO does is quite vast and complex in this respect).
As the investigation in the Hilbre Island incident is still ongoing, no decision has yet been reached on what charges, if any, will be considered. As with any investigation, the initial process is an evidence gathering exercise and where we consider the entire circumstances surrounding an incident with the intention of pursuing those that can be proven. If during that investigation we receive or uncover evidence or information pertaining to an offence which falls outside the remit of the MMO, or could assist another enforcement body, this would be passed on to the relevant parties for further action.

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

Kind regards,

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

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Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller

Dear Mr West

Thank you very much for the comprehensive answers to my questions.
I very much appreciate your prompt response.
Kind regards
Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller