Police Investigations (Trawling) of Patients

Wendy Hesketh made this Freedom of Information request to Cambridgeshire 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 successful.

Dear Cambridgeshire Constabulary,

I am currently undertaking academic research into the issue of 'Trawling' as a method of police investigation in relation to malpractice/crimes allegedly committed by health professionals. For your information, I use the term 'Trawling' to mean the police’s use of current or previous lists of doctors' or hospitals' patients to identify and to contact people to ask them to contribute to the police investigation. It might also involve contacting current and ex-patients via the media. It can also involve a close working relationship between the police investigating doctors and solicitors representing alleged patient-victims.

This term has been adapted (to suit the health setting) from The Home Affairs Select Committee (2002), Fourth Report: The Conduct of Investigations into Past Cases of Abuse in Children's Homes. London: House of Commons Publications, 22 October 2002, which is available at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

With this information in mind, I would appreciate your responses to the following questions:

Q1. Has Cambridgeshire Constabulary ever investigated crimes allegedly committed by a health professional against a patient (or former patient)? If not, please confirm and ignore the remaining questions.

Q2. Has Cambridgeshire Constabulary ever used a trawling method to investigate potential crime(s) committed by a health professional? That is, did the force's officers use either a hospital's or GPs' practice lists of current or previous patients to engage with patients (as possible witnesses/victims)?

Q3. If Cambridgeshire Constabulary did NOT use a trawling method of investigation into the alleged crimes of a health professional, can you please explain, briefly, how the crime was investigated instead? Perhaps e.g. officers took statements only from those who made complaints directly to the police.

Q4. If Cambridgeshire Constabulary DID use a trawling method of investigation into the alleged crimes of a health professional, can you please identify, if not the name, then at least the rank of the person who sanctioned the release of the patient list(s)? That is, the rank of the person in both the police and, if possible, the health authority/hospital?

Q5. If Cambridgeshire Constabulary have used a trawling method of investigation to investigate a health professional in the past 10 years, can you please list their details and the outcome of those investigations.

Q6. Has Cambridgeshire Constabulary used this trawling method of investigation in other settings, such as children's homes or care homes? Details would be most helpful.

Q7. Has Cambridgeshire Constabulary received any criticism regarding this form of investigation? If so, how did Cambridgeshire Constabulary deal with that criticism?

Q8. Who is responsible for sanctioning this type of investigation (and when it should apply in the individual case)? E.g. is it the Chief Constable, in each individual case?

Arguably, as this - trawling - issue has already been publicly debated, then it would be unacceptable for you to argue that releasing such information might prejudice operational procedures.

Further, I appreciate that information about individuals not already in the public domain may be subject to Data Protection and, in order to satisfy your responsibilities under the Data Protection Act, you may omit any identifying details (however, this arguably does not apply to those convicted because there will already exist a public record of that conviction).

Lastly, if you intend to argue that Under section 12 of the FOA that this information is exempt from disclosure as the cost of providing me with the information is above the amount to which you are legally required to respond i.e. the cost of locating and retrieving the information exceeds the “appropriate level” as stated in the Freedom of Information (Fees and Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004. That is, that it is estimated that it would cost at least £450 to comply with my request, then please answer Q1 (and possibly Q2) only, until you reach the cost limit.

I trust that you will answer this request within the statutory timescale.

With thanks.

Yours faithfully,

Wendy Hesketh

Cambridgeshire Constabulary

Dear Wendy

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST REFERENCE NO: 0194/2011

We acknowledge receipt of your Freedom of Information (FOI) request which
was received by Cambridgeshire Constabulary on 5th April 2011.

Your request will now be considered in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000. You will receive a response within the statutory
timescale of twenty working days as defined by the Act. In some
circumstances, we may be unable to achieve this deadline. If this is the
case, you will be informed and given a revised time-scale at the earliest
opportunity.

If we require any further clarification regarding this request, you will
be notified.

We would advise you that the nature of certain requests may involve
payment of a fee. If this is the case, you will be notified.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please
telephone on 0345 456 456 4 asking for the Information Access Office or
email [Cambridgeshire Constabulary request email]

Regards

David

David Price
Information Access Office
Cambridgeshire Constabulary

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Cambridgeshire Constabulary

1 Attachment

Dear Wendy

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST REFERENCE NO: 0194/2011

In reply to your request for information under the Freedom of Information
Act 2000, dated 05/04/2011.

Your request was received as:

I am currently undertaking academic research into the issue of 'Trawling'
as a method of police investigation in relation to malpractice/crimes
allegedly committed by health professionals. For your information, I use
the term 'Trawling' to mean the police***s use of current or previous
lists of doctors' or hospitals' patients to identify and to contact people
to ask them to contribute to the police investigation. It might also
involve contacting current and ex-patients via the media. It can also
involve a close working relationship between the police investigating
doctors and solicitors representing alleged patient-victims.
This term has been adapted (to suit the health setting) from The Home
Affairs Select Committee (2002), Fourth Report: The Conduct of
Investigations into Past Cases of Abuse in Children's Homes. London: House
of Commons Publications, 22 October 2002, which is available at:
[1]http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...
With this information in mind, I would appreciate your responses to the
following questions:

Q1. Has Cambridgeshire Constabulary ever investigated crimes allegedly
committed by a health professional against a patient (or former patient)?
If not, please confirm and ignore the remaining questions.
Q2. Has Cambridgeshire Constabulary ever used a trawling method to
investigate potential crime(s) committed by a health professional? That
is, did the force's officers use either a hospital's or GPs' practice
lists of current or previous patients to engage with patients (as possible
witnesses/victims)?
Q3. If Cambridgeshire Constabulary did NOT use a trawling method of
investigation into the alleged crimes of a health professional, can you
please explain, briefly, how the crime was investigated instead? Perhaps
e.g. officers took statements only from those who made complaints directly
to the police.
Q4. If Cambridgeshire Constabulary DID use a trawling method of
investigation into the alleged crimes of a health professional, can you
please identify, if not the name, then at least the rank of the person who
sanctioned the release of the patient list(s)? That is, the rank of the
person in both the police and, if possible, the health authority/hospital?
Q5. If Cambridgeshire Constabulary have used a trawling method of
investigation to investigate a health professional in the past 10 years,
can you please list their details and the outcome of those investigations.
Q6. Has Cambridgeshire Constabulary used this trawling method of
investigation in other settings, such as children's homes or care homes?
Details would be most helpful.
Q7. Has Cambridgeshire Constabulary received any criticism regarding this
form of investigation? If so, how did Cambridgeshire Constabulary deal
with that criticism?
Q8. Who is responsible for sanctioning this type of investigation (and
when it should apply in the individual case)? E.g. is it the Chief
Constable, in each individual case?

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (The Act) requires us to handle all
requests in a manner that is blind to the identity of the requestor. Any
information released in response to a request is regarded as being
published, and therefore in the public domain without caveat.

We have completed all searches within Cambridgeshire Constabulary and
hereby enclose your response.

>>>Your request asked eight questions about investigations committed by
health professionals. We have reviewed your request and our response to
your first question is given below

Question 1

This question asked if we have used 'trawling' to investigate crimes
committed by a health professional against a patient / former patient. You
provided an explanation of the term 'trawling' but have not given a time
frame for your request. Our crime system does not hold a recorded
occupation of 'Health Professional', we are most likely to have the
occupation recorded as 'Doctor', 'Nurse', 'Dentist' etc. Each year in
Cambridgeshire we have around 60,000 crimes. To establish if any of these
crimes were committed by a 'Health Professional' will require us to
initially review each crime for those where we consider the occupation of
the offender could be classified as 'Health Professional'. We would then
have to check if the aggrieved was a patient / former patient of the
offender. I do not know how we could establish this connection. As stated
you have not given a time frame for your request but even for one year
will require us to review around 60,000 crimes.

Section 12(1) of the Freedom of Information Act states that a public
authority is not obliged to comply with a request for information if the
authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request would
exceed the ***appropriate limit***. For Police forces in the UK, the
"appropriate limit" is considered to be up to 18 hours of work on one
request. This information is given in the Freedom of Information (Fees and
Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004.

To review 60,000 crimes, just one years worth, within the 18 hour time
limit will require us to manually view each record to see if the offender
was a 'Health Professional' and then check if the aggrieved was a patient
/ former patient (I do not know how we could check this connection) at the
unsustainable rate of one every second.

Under the FOI Act a public authority has a duty to provide advice and
assistance to a requester. Your request has asked for details about crimes
committed by 'Health Professionals' and, as stated above, to extract any
data we would have to determine if the recorded occupation was one that
was covered by your definition. If you wished to modify your request to
ask for any where the offenders occupation was recorded as say, Doctor,
Dentist or Nurse this may assist us. However your request went on to ask
if the alleged crime was committed against a patient / former patient and
I do not know how we would be able to determine this. Reviewing each crime
in detail may show a connection. The only statistic I think we could
provide would be how many people whose occupation was recorded as Doctor,
Dentist or Nurse (or any other occupations you wished to include) had a
crime raised against them during a given year. However any extract we
create will cover all situations where such a person was considered the
offender including crimes such as shop-lifting, fraud etc..

We have not responded to the remaining seven questions due to the above
cost exemption.

If you are unhappy with this response, please see the attachment below,
which sets out your rights to appeal.
(See attached file: Complaint Rights new.nov - 09.pdf)

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please
contact the Information Access Office via email, or on telephone number
0345 456 456 4 extension 8163.

Regards

Alec Taylor
Information Access Office
Cambridgeshire Constabulary

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References

Visible links
1. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

FAO Alec Taylor, FOI Team, Cambridgeshire Constabulary

Dear Alec,

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my request in such detail. I appreciate the effort you have gone to in order to explain the difficulty in answering my original request. I'm sorry that request for information was not more definite. As you suggest in your letter to me today (26/04/2011), below:

'If you wished to modify your request to
ask for any where the offenders occupation was recorded as say, Doctor, Dentist or Nurse this may assist us. However your request went on to ask
if the alleged crime was committed against a patient / former patient and I do not know how we would be able to determine this. Reviewing each crime in detail may show a connection. The only statistic I think we could
provide would be how many people whose occupation was recorded as Doctor, Dentist or Nurse (or any other occupations you wished to include) had a crime raised against them during a given year. However any extract we create will cover all situations where such a person was considered the
offender including crimes such as shop-lifting, fraud etc..'

I would now like to refine that original request. Can you please concentrate your efforts on the crimes committed by doctors only. I understand that each police force has a duty to inform the General Medical Council (GMC) each time a doctor commits an offence. This might help? Please therefore check your records for any time the GMC have been informed of a doctor committing a crime. Then, in order to narrow this search down, please note that I am only looking for cases involving the most serious crimes against the person (any unlawful killing, assault and sex offences). You should be able to identify the victim as a patient if the crime took place at the doctor's surgery: serious offences against the person, committed at the doctor's surgery are the ONLY crimes I am interested in.

I hope that this helps to narrow down your search. If you need me to refine it further, then please come back to me. I am most interested in sexual assaults, from 2006 (or as far back as you can go within your resource limit).

Thanks again for your help. I do not require any identifying details of patients or any doctor currently under an active investigation, only those who have already been convicted and sentenced.

Yours faithfully,

Wendy Hesketh

Cambridgeshire Constabulary

Dear Wendy

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST REFERENCE NO: 0247/2011

We acknowledge receipt of your Freedom of Information (FOI) request which
was received by Cambridgeshire Constabulary on 26th April 2011.

Your request will now be considered in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000. You will receive a response within the statutory
timescale of twenty working days as defined by the Act. In some
circumstances, we may be unable to achieve this deadline. If this is the
case, you will be informed and given a revised time-scale at the earliest
opportunity.

If we require any further clarification regarding this request, you will
be notified.

We would advise you that the nature of certain requests may involve
payment of a fee. If this is the case, you will be notified.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please
telephone on 0345 456 456 4 asking for the Information Access Office or
email [Cambridgeshire Constabulary request email]

Regards

David Price

Information Access Office
Cambridgeshire Constabulary

show quoted sections

Cambridgeshire Constabulary

1 Attachment

Dear Wendy

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST REFERENCE NO: 0247/11

In reply to your request for information under the Freedom of Information
Act 2000, received 26/04/11.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (The Act) requires us to handle all
requests in a manner that is blind to the identity of the requestor. Any
information released in response to a request is regarded as being
published, and therefore in the public domain without caveat.

Request

I would now like to refine that original request. Can you please
concentrate your efforts on the crimes committed by doctors only. I
understand that each police force has a duty to inform the General Medical
Council (GMC) each time a doctor commits an offence. This might help?
Please therefore check your records for any time the GMC have been
informed of a doctor committing a crime. Then, in order to narrow this
search down, please note that I am only looking for cases involving the
most serious crimes against the person (any unlawful killing, assault and
sex offences). You should be able to identify the victim as a patient if
the crime took place at the doctor's surgery: serious offences against the
person, committed at the doctor's surgery are the ONLY crimes I am
interested in.

I hope that this helps to narrow down your search. If you need me to
refine it further, then please come back to me. I am most interested in
sexual assaults, from 2006 (or as far back as you can go within your
resource limit).

Thanks again for your help. I do not require any identifying details of
patients or any doctor currently under an active investigation, only those
who have already been convicted and sentenced.

We have completed all searches within Cambridgeshire Constabulary and
hereby enclose your response.

Response

Unfortunately, we have been unable to locate any information to satisfy
your request, as we do not hold this information. We have not informed the
GMC of any cases where a doctor has committed a serious crime against a
person that was committed in a doctors surgery.

If you are unhappy with this response, please see the attachment below,
which sets out your rights to appeal.
(See attached file: Complaint Rights May-11.pdf)

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please
contact the Information Access Office via email, or on telephone number
0345 456 456 4 extension 8165.

Regards

Donna Milton
Information Access Office
Cambridgeshire Constabulary

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