RIPA Requests

Alan Wright made this Freedom of Information request to Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

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 refused by Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

Dear Metropolitan Police Service (MPS),

Could you please provide me with the following information under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000?

1) Can you please tell me for the year 2011, how many RIPA applications were made by members of your Force in relation to Police Officers' use of Social Media or e-mail?

2) Can you please tell me for the year 2011 what were the relevant offences or Discipline Regulations for these applications?

3) For the year 2011 what was the result of these applications? How many officers were either prosecuted or disciplined?

4) For the year 2011, how many such applications (as above) were refused and on what grounds?

Yours faithfully,

Alan Wright

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

Dear Mr Wright

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2012110001536
I write in connection with your request for information which was received
by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 13/11/2012.  I note you seek
access to the following information:

*   Could you please provide me with the following information under the
terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000?         1) Can you
please tell me for the year 2011, how many RIPA   applications were
made by members of your Force in relation to Police Officers' use of
Social Media or e-mail?         2) Can you please tell me for the year
2011 what were the relevant  offences or Discipline Regulations for
these applications?         3) For the year 2011 what was the result
of these applications? How many officers were either prosecuted or
disciplined?         4) For the year 2011, how many such applications
(as above) were refused and on what grounds?

Your request will now be considered in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (the Act).  You will receive a response within
the statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined by the Act,
subject to the information not being exempt or containing a reference
to a third party.  In some circumstances the MPS may be unable to
achieve this deadline.  If this is likely you will be informed and
given a revised time-scale at the earliest opportunity.

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.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Your attention is drawn to the attached sheet, which details your
right of complaint.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please
write or contact Yvette Taylor on telephone number 0207 230 6267
quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely

Yvette Taylor
Information Manager
COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Are you unhappy with how your request has been handled or do you think
the decision is incorrect?

You have the right to require the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to
review their decision.

Prior to lodging a formal complaint you are welcome and encouraged to
discuss the decision with the case officer that dealt with your
request.  

Ask to have the decision looked at again –

The quickest and easiest way to have the decision looked at again is
to telephone the case officer that is nominated at the end of your
decision letter.

That person will be able to discuss the decision, explain any issues
and assist with any problems.

Complaint

If you are dissatisfied with the handling procedures or the decision
of the MPS made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act)
regarding access to information you can lodge a complaint with the MPS
to have the decision reviewed.

Complaints should be made in writing, within forty (40) working days
from the date of the refusal notice, and addressed to:

FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192
London
SW6 1SF
[email address]

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your
complaint within 20 working days.
The Information Commissioner

After lodging a complaint with the MPS if you are still dissatisfied
with the decision you may make application to the Information
Commissioner for a decision on whether the request for information has
been dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Act.

For information on how to make application to the Information
Commissioner please visit their website at
www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.  Alternatively, phone or write to:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Phone:  01625 545 700

Total Policing is the Met's commitment to be on the streets and in your
communities to catch offenders, prevent crime and support victims. We are
here for London, working with you to make our capital safer.

 

Consider our environment - please do not print this email unless
absolutely necessary.

NOTICE - This email and any attachments may be confidential, subject to
copyright and/or legal privilege and are intended solely for the use of
the intended recipient. If you have received this email in error, please
notify the sender and delete it from your system.  To avoid incurring
legal liabilities, you must not distribute or copy the information in this
email without the permission of the sender. MPS communication systems are
monitored to the extent permitted by law.  Consequently, any email and/or
attachments may be read by monitoring staff. Only specified personnel are
authorised to conclude any binding agreement on behalf of the MPS by
email. The MPS accepts no responsibility for unauthorised agreements
reached with other employees or agents.  The security of this email and
any attachments cannot be guaranteed. Email messages are routinely scanned
but malicious software infection and corruption of content can still occur
during transmission over the Internet. Any views or opinions expressed in
this communication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily
represent those of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

 

Find us at:

Facebook: Facebook.com/metpoliceuk
Twitter: @metpoliceuk

Dear Metropolitan Police Service (MPS),

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2012110001536

Good morning,

I note that the above request should have been answered by 12th December 2012.

Could you please expedite this request and forward your response at the earliest opportunity?

Thank You

Yours faithfully,

Alan Wright

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

Dear Mr Wright,

Thank you for your E-mail dated 13/12/2012. Carol Conway, information Manager Directorate of Professional Standards is dealing with your request. I have forwarded your E-mail to her so that she can provide you with an update.

Thank you

Yvette Taylor

show quoted sections

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

Dear Mr Wright

I write to apologise for the delay in providing the substantive FOIA
reply.  I am currently drafting the proposed reply which will then be sent
for agreement from senior management. Once I have their approval the
response will be issue to you.  I expect to have this with you by Friday
21st December 2012.

I appreciate your patience in this matter.

Yours sincerely

Carol Conway
DPS-FOIA Team.

Total Policing is the Met's commitment to be on the streets and in your
communities to catch offenders, prevent crime and support victims. We are
here for London, working with you to make our capital safer.

 

Consider our environment - please do not print this email unless
absolutely necessary.

NOTICE - This email and any attachments may be confidential, subject to
copyright and/or legal privilege and are intended solely for the use of
the intended recipient. If you have received this email in error, please
notify the sender and delete it from your system.  To avoid incurring
legal liabilities, you must not distribute or copy the information in this
email without the permission of the sender. MPS communication systems are
monitored to the extent permitted by law.  Consequently, any email and/or
attachments may be read by monitoring staff. Only specified personnel are
authorised to conclude any binding agreement on behalf of the MPS by
email. The MPS accepts no responsibility for unauthorised agreements
reached with other employees or agents.  The security of this email and
any attachments cannot be guaranteed. Email messages are routinely scanned
but malicious software infection and corruption of content can still occur
during transmission over the Internet. Any views or opinions expressed in
this communication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily
represent those of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

 

Find us at:

Facebook: Facebook.com/metpoliceuk

Twitter: @metpoliceuk

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

Dear Mr.  Wright

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2012110001536
I write in connection with your request for information which was received
by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 13/11/2012.  I note you seek
access to the following information:

Could you please provide me with the following information under the terms
of the Freedom of Information Act 2000?        
1) Can you please tell me for the year 2011, how many RIPA applications
were made by members of your Force in relation to Police Officers' use of
Social Media or e-mail?        
2) Can you please tell me for the year 2011 what were the relevant
offences or Discipline Regulations for these applications?        
3) For the year 2011 what was the result of these applications? How many
officers were either prosecuted or disciplined?        
4) For the year 2011, how many such applications (as above) were refused
and on what grounds?

DECISION

In accordance with the Act, this letter represents a Refusal Notice for
this particular request under Section 17(4).  

Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) 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 Section17 of FOIA requires that the applicant is provided with
a notice which:
a) states that fact
b) specifies the exemption(s) in question and
c) states (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption
applies.

Section 17(4) of the Act provides:

(4) A public authority is not obliged to make a statement under subsection
(1)(c) or (3) if, or to the extent that, the statement would involve the
disclosure of information which would itself be exempt information.

The Metropolitan Police Service can neither confirm nor deny that it holds
the information you requested as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply, by virtue of the following
exemptions:

Section 23(5) : Information Supplied by or concerning Security Bodies
Section 44(2) : Prohibitions on Disclosure
Section 30(3) : Investigations and Proceedings Conducted by Public
Authorities
Section 40(5) : Personal Information

Sections 23(5), 44(2) and 40(5) are absolute exemptions which means that
the legislators have identified that harm would be caused by release
therefore there is no requirement to consider the public interest test.
Sections 30(3)) is a qualified exemptions and there is a requirement to
conduct a public interest balancing test before it can be relied upon.

Harm Test

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) is often a complex
piece of legislation to interpret.  The Act is a regulatory framework
around a range of investigatory powers which is used to ensure that these
powers are used lawfully and in a way that is compatible with the European
Convention on Human rights.  It also requires, in particular, that those
authorising the use of covert techniques must give proper consideration to
whether this use is necessary and proportionate. A legislative scrutiny
framework already exists for RIPA activity: Police surveillance activity
is subject to annual inspection by the Interception of Communications
Commissioners Office (IOCCO) and Office of Surveillance Commissioners
(OSC).  These inspections assess each constabulary's compliance with the
legislation and a full report is submitted to the Prime Minister
containing statistical information.

In order to counter criminal activity it is vital that the police and
other agencies have the ability to work together, where necessary
covertly, in order to obtain intelligence within current legislative
frameworks to ensure the successful arrest and prosecution of those who
commit criminal acts.  The prevention and detection of crime is the
foundation upon which policing is built and the police have a clear
responsibility to prevent crime and arrest those responsible for
committing crime. To do this the police require evidence and this can come
from various sources, some of which may be obtained through covert means.
 To confirm or deny any of the police actions around RIPA would undermine
ongoing investigations, reveal policing techniques, risk the
identification of individuals and the possibility of revealing involvement
of any exempt bodies.

Revealing information that specific tactics are used in certain
circumstances would help subjects avoid detection and inhibit the
prevention and detection of crime. This could either lead to the
identification of specific cases or in providing this level of information
at force level is likely to result in significantly small authorisation
numbers being published and presents a real risk of identifying the
resources available to individual departments to covertly monitor
individuals likely to be committing offences under their remit. Disclosure
would undermine the partnership approach to law enforcement but also, due
to the legal constraints under Chapter 1 of part 1 of the RIPA
legislation, it may actually be a criminal offence to do so (Section 19).
 

To confirm or deny how many RIPA applications have been made relating to
police officer's use of social media or email would compromise ongoing
investigations or identify individuals. If a force applied an exemption to
the information this would reveal that these policing techniques and
investigative activity had taken place. Conversely, by stating 'no
information held' would highlight to an officer that his conduct is not
being investigated and that he is free to continue.

It is important that police services disclose information regarding
surveillance activity under RIPA where it is appropriate to do so but an
officer's conduct may be investigated covertly by their Professional
Standards Department (PSD). By confirming or denying that RIPA
applications have been made would alert an officer, who may or may not be
involved in the misuse of social media or email, not only that PSD have
the ability to ask for RIPA applications in these circumstances, but that
they are aware of his misconduct. The officer would then cease his
activity and perhaps make attempts to hide or delete the evidence.

Information compiled for the purposes of an investigation, be it a
criminal investigation or internal misconduct hearing, may contain
information which was obtained, in confidence, from individuals.  To
disclose investigative information could dissuade people from providing
information to the police in future thus reducing the flow of information
to the service.  The public, be they general members of the public or
internal police officers or staff, must have confidence that their
information is treated sensitively and appropriately.  

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S.30.
By confirming or denying that any information relevant to the request
exists would enable the public to obtain satisfaction that all
investigations are conducted efficiently by the police service and that
public money is spent appropriately in carrying out its lawful functions.
Confirming or denying that RIPA is applied to police officers who misuse
social media would increase public scrutiny of police actions and in turn
hold the police service to account.

Factors against confirmation or denial for S.30.
By confirming or denying that RIPA applications have been made in respect
of police officers' use of social media or email would hinder the
prevention or detection of crime and undermine the partnership approach to
law enforcement.

Balance Test.

The MPS will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so
would undermine ongoing investigations or compromise law enforcement.
Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing
operations and in this case providing assurance that the police service is
appropriately and effectively managing the conduct of police officers,
there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of
police investigations and operations.  There is also no requirement to
satisfy any public concern over the legality of police operations and the
tactics we may or may not use. The MPS is already held to account by
independent bodies such as The Office of the Surveillance Commissioner and
The Interception of Communications Commissioners Office. These inspections
assess each constabulary's compliance with the legislation and a full
report is submitted to the Prime Minister containing statistical
information. The accountability of the MPS is therefore not enhanced by
confirming or denying that any other information is held.
As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is
appropriate and proportionate regarding all aspects of police officer
conduct, this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances.
 
It is appreciated that members of the public will naturally be interested
in techniques employed for surveillance and some people believe
surveillance (in any form) is used too widely and therefore an unnecessary
intrusion into their privacy.   However, taking into account the fact that
the MPS is already scrutinised as detailed above and effective operational
law enforcement would be compromised by any disclosure, after weighing up
the competing interests I find that the public interest favours upholding
the decision to neither confirm or deny whether the MPS holds the
information you have requested .This is because to confirm or deny whether
we hold this information, in all circumstances, would be likely to cause
substantial harm, which I have outlined above, and jeopardise the MPS's
ability to fulfil its law enforcement role.  

Please note the public interest is not what interests the public but what
will be of greater good, if released, to the community as a whole. The
final decision to neither confirm nor deny whether information you have
requested is held, is therefore based on what is in the public interest
and not what is of interest to the public.

Please note, this notice does not confirm or deny that the MPS holds the
information that you have requested.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Your attention is drawn to the attached sheet which details your right of
complaint.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please write
or contact Carol Conway on telephone number 0207 1616512 quoting the
reference number above.  

Yours sincerely,

Carol Conway
Case Manager
COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Are you unhappy with how your request has been handled or do you think the
decision is incorrect?

You have the right to require the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to
review their decision.

Prior to lodging a formal complaint you are welcome and encouraged to
discuss the decision with the case officer that dealt with your request.  

Ask to have the decision looked at again –

The quickest and easiest way to have the decision looked at again is to
telephone the case officer that is nominated at the end of your decision
letter.

That person will be able to discuss the decision, explain any issues and
assist with any problems.

Complaint

If you are dissatisfied with the handling procedures or the decision of
the MPS made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) regarding
access to information you can lodge a complaint with the MPS to have the
decision reviewed.

Complaints should be made in writing, within forty (40) working days from
the date of the refusal notice, and addressed to:

FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192
London
SW6 1SF
[email address]

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your
complaint within 20 working days.
The Information Commissioner

After lodging a complaint with the MPS if you are still dissatisfied with
the decision you may make application to the Information Commissioner for
a decision on whether the request for information has been dealt with in
accordance with the requirements of the Act.

For information on how to make application to the Information Commissioner
please visit their website at www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.
 Alternatively, phone or write to:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Phone:  01625 545 700

Total Policing is the Met's commitment to be on the streets and in your
communities to catch offenders, prevent crime and support victims. We are
here for London, working with you to make our capital safer.

 

Consider our environment - please do not print this email unless
absolutely necessary.

NOTICE - This email and any attachments may be confidential, subject to
copyright and/or legal privilege and are intended solely for the use of
the intended recipient. If you have received this email in error, please
notify the sender and delete it from your system.  To avoid incurring
legal liabilities, you must not distribute or copy the information in this
email without the permission of the sender. MPS communication systems are
monitored to the extent permitted by law.  Consequently, any email and/or
attachments may be read by monitoring staff. Only specified personnel are
authorised to conclude any binding agreement on behalf of the MPS by
email. The MPS accepts no responsibility for unauthorised agreements
reached with other employees or agents.  The security of this email and
any attachments cannot be guaranteed. Email messages are routinely scanned
but malicious software infection and corruption of content can still occur
during transmission over the Internet. Any views or opinions expressed in
this communication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily
represent those of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

 

Find us at:

Facebook: Facebook.com/metpoliceuk

Twitter: @metpoliceuk

Dear Metropolitan Police Service (MPS),

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2012110001536

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)'s handling of my FOI request 'RIPA Requests'.

[ I am requesting a Review because I do not agree with your reasons for refusing to Confirm/Deny that you that you hold the information and for Refusing to answer my request. My reasons for making this request are as follows;

1) "Sections 23(5), 44(2) and 40(5) are absolute exemptions which means that the legislators have identified that harm would be caused by release therefore there is no requirement to consider the public interest test. Sections 30(3)) is a qualified exemptions and there is a requirement to
conduct a public interest balancing test before it can be relied upon." - Questions 1, 3 and 4 only require a number as their answer, and Question 2 only requires a Schedule of Offences.

2) "The prevention and detection of crime is the
foundation upon which policing is built and the police have a clear responsibility to prevent crime and arrest those responsible for committing crime. To do this the police require evidence and this can come
from various sources, some of which may be obtained through covert means. To confirm or deny any of the police actions around RIPA would undermine ongoing investigations, reveal policing techniques, risk the
identification of individuals and the possibility of revealing involvement of any exempt bodies." - Once again I am not requesting details of methodology, merely a numerical response and a Schedule of Offences. I require no further information than that. I fail to see how this would compromise anything.

3) "Revealing information that specific tactics are used in certain circumstances would help subjects avoid detection and inhibit the prevention and detection of crime. This could either lead to the
identification of specific cases or in providing this level of information at force level is likely to result in significantly small authorisation
numbers being published and presents a real risk of identifying the resources available to individual departments to covertly monitor individuals likely to be committing offences under their remit. Disclosure
would undermine the partnership approach to law enforcement but also, due to the legal constraints under Chapter 1 of part 1 of the RIPA legislation, it may actually be a criminal offence to do so (Section 19)." - Yet again the information that I am actually requesting would in no way identify resources available, it is not a closely guarded secret that people's Twitter or Facebook accounts can be monitored by almost anyone, so there are no secrets to be divulged by answering the question.

4) "To confirm or deny how many RIPA applications have been made relating to police officer's use of social media or email would compromise ongoing investigations or identify individuals. If a force applied an exemption to the information this would reveal that these policing techniques and investigative activity had taken place. Conversely, by stating 'no information held' would highlight to an officer that his conduct is not being investigated and that he is free to continue." - I do not accept that this is a valid arguement for refusing to Confirm/Deny and Refusal as I specifically aimed my request at 2011 with the clear intention of avoiding such a problem as ongoing, current investigations. I most certainly would not want to be responsible for alerting an officer to the possible investigation of his/her activities, and so chose a date which should contain no current investigations.

5) "It is important that police services disclose information regarding surveillance activity under RIPA where it is appropriate to do so but an officer's conduct may be investigated covertly by their Professional Standards Department (PSD). By confirming or denying that RIPA applications have been made would alert an officer, who may or may not be involved in the misuse of social media or email, not only that PSD have the ability to ask for RIPA applications in these circumstances, but that they are aware of his misconduct. The officer would then cease his
activity and perhaps make attempts to hide or delete the evidence." - Once again, I am only requesting numbers and a Schedule of Offences relating to 2011. I am absolutely certain that any fully trained officers are aware of RIPA and the possible use of RIPA against them should the circumstances dictate. By answering my request I fail to see how this would suddenly make an officer cease their activity and attempt to 'cover their tracks', and therefore is not a valid objection in my opinion.

6) "Information compiled for the purposes of an investigation, be it a criminal investigation or internal misconduct hearing, may contain
information which was obtained, in confidence, from individuals. To disclose investigative information could dissuade people from providing information to the police in future thus reducing the flow of information to the service. The public, be they general members of the public or internal police officers or staff, must have confidence that their
information is treated sensitively and appropriately." - Once again the information that I have requested, if supplied, would not dissuade anyone from supplying information to the police as it is only a number and a Schedule of Offences that I have requested.

7) "Confirming or denying that RIPA is applied to police officers who misuse social media would increase public scrutiny of police actions and in turn hold the police service to account" - RIPA should only be used in cases of alleged Crime. If Police Officers are involved in the commission of crimes this is of public interest and why should the police service not be held to account? I do not see this as a valid reason for not Confirming/Denying and Refusing my request.

]

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

Yours faithfully,

Alan Wright

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

Dear Mr Wright

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2013010002821

I write in connection with your request for a review of the original MPS
decision relating to 2012110001536 which was received by the Metropolitan
Police Service (MPS) on 26/01/2013.  

Your request for a review will now be considered in accordance with the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).  You will receive a response to
your request for a review of the original MPS case within a timescale of
20 working days.  In some circumstances the MPS may be unable to achieve
this deadline.  If this is likely you will be informed and given a revised
time-scale at the earliest opportunity.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Your attention is drawn to the attached sheet, which details your right of
complaint.

Yours sincerely

R. Loizou
Administration Team Officer
COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Are you unhappy with how your request has been handled or do you think the
decision is incorrect?

You have the right to require the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to
review their decision.

Prior to lodging a formal complaint you are welcome and encouraged to
discuss the decision with the case officer that dealt with your request.  

Ask to have the decision looked at again –

The quickest and easiest way to have the decision looked at again is to
telephone the case officer that is nominated at the end of your decision
letter.

That person will be able to discuss the decision, explain any issues and
assist with any problems.

Complaint

If you are dissatisfied with the handling procedures or the decision of
the MPS made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) regarding
access to information you can lodge a complaint with the MPS to have the
decision reviewed.

Complaints should be made in writing, within forty (40) working days from
the date of the refusal notice, and addressed to:

FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192
London
SW6 1SF
[email address]

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your
complaint within 20 working days.
The Information Commissioner

After lodging a complaint with the MPS if you are still dissatisfied with
the decision you may make application to the Information Commissioner for
a decision on whether the request for information has been dealt with in
accordance with the requirements of the Act.

For information on how to make application to the Information Commissioner
please visit their website at www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.
 Alternatively, phone or write to:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Phone:  01625 545 700

Total Policing is the Met's commitment to be on the streets and in your
communities to catch offenders, prevent crime and support victims. We are
here for London, working with you to make our capital safer.

 

Consider our environment - please do not print this email unless
absolutely necessary.

NOTICE - This email and any attachments may be confidential, subject to
copyright and/or legal privilege and are intended solely for the use of
the intended recipient. If you have received this email in error, please
notify the sender and delete it from your system.  To avoid incurring
legal liabilities, you must not distribute or copy the information in this
email without the permission of the sender. MPS communication systems are
monitored to the extent permitted by law.  Consequently, any email and/or
attachments may be read by monitoring staff. Only specified personnel are
authorised to conclude any binding agreement on behalf of the MPS by
email. The MPS accepts no responsibility for unauthorised agreements
reached with other employees or agents.  The security of this email and
any attachments cannot be guaranteed. Email messages are routinely scanned
but malicious software infection and corruption of content can still occur
during transmission over the Internet. Any views or opinions expressed in
this communication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily
represent those of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

 

Find us at:

Facebook: Facebook.com/metpoliceuk
Twitter: @metpoliceuk

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

Dear Mr. Wright

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2013010002821

I write in connection with your correspondence dated 26th January 2013
requesting that the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) review its response
to your request for information (ref: 2012110001536).  Please find below a
response to your complaint.

Original Request

1) Can you please tell me for the year 2011, how many RIPA applications
were made by members of your Force in relation to Police Officers' use of
Social Media or e-mail?        

2) Can you please tell me for the year 2011 what were the relevant
offences or Discipline Regulations for these applications?        

3) For the year 2011 what was the result of these applications? How many
officers were either prosecuted or disciplined?      

4) For the year 2011, how many such applications (as above) were refused
and on what grounds?

Request for Review

I am requesting a Review because I do not agree with your reasons for
refusing to Confirm/Deny that you that you hold the information and for
Refusing to answer my request. My reasons for making this request are as
follows;

1) "Sections 23(5), 44(2) and 40(5) are absolute exemptions which means
that the legislators have identified that harm would be caused by release
therefore there is no requirement to consider the public interest test.
Sections 30(3)) is a qualified exemptions and there is a requirement to
conduct a public interest balancing test before it can be relied upon." -
Questions 1, 3 and 4 only require a number as their answer, and Question 2
only requires a Schedule of Offences.
     
 2) "The prevention and detection of crime is the foundation upon which
policing is built and the police have a clear responsibility to prevent
crime and arrest those responsible for committing crime. To do this the
police require evidence and this can come from various sources, some of
which may be obtained through covert means. To confirm or deny any of the
police actions around RIPA would undermine ongoing investigations, reveal
policing techniques, risk the identification of individuals and the
possibility of revealing involvement of any exempt bodies." - Once again I
am not requesting details of methodology, merely a numerical response and
a Schedule of Offences. I require no further information than that. I fail
to see how this would compromise anything.
     
3) "Revealing information that specific tactics are used in certain
circumstances would help subjects avoid detection and inhibit the
prevention and detection of crime. This could either lead to the
identification of specific cases or in providing this level of information
at force level is likely to result in significantly small authorisation
numbers being published and presents a real risk of identifying the
resources available to individual departments to covertly monitor
individuals likely to be committing offences under their remit. Disclosure
would undermine the partnership approach to law enforcement but also, due
to the legal constraints under Chapter 1 of part 1 of the      RIPA
legislation, it may actually be a criminal offence to do so (Section 19)."
- Yet again the information that I am actually requesting would in no way
identify resources available, it is not a closely guarded secret that
people's Twitter or Facebook accounts can be monitored by almost anyone,
so there are no secrets to be divulged by answering the question.
     
4) "To confirm or deny how many RIPA applications have been made relating
to police officer's use of social media or email would compromise ongoing
investigations or identify individuals. If a force applied an exemption to
the information this would reveal that these policing techniques and
investigative activity had taken place. Conversely, by stating 'no
information held' would highlight to an officer that his conduct is not
being investigated and that he is free to continue." - I do not accept
that this is a valid arguement for refusing to Confirm/Deny and Refusal as
I specifically aimed my request at 2011 with the clear intention of
avoiding such a problem as ongoing, current investigations. I most
certainly would not want to be responsible for alerting an officer to the
possible investigation of his/her activities, and so chose a date which
should contain no current investigations.
     
5) "It is important that police services disclose information regarding
surveillance activity under RIPA where it is appropriate to do so but an
officer's conduct may be investigated covertly by their Professional
Standards Department (PSD). By confirming or denying that RIPA
applications have been made would alert an officer, who may or may not be
involved in the misuse of social media or email, not only that PSD have
the ability to ask for RIPA applications in these circumstances, but that
they are aware of his misconduct. The officer would then cease his
activity and perhaps make attempts to hide or delete the evidence." - Once
again, I am only requesting numbers and a Schedule of Offences relating to
2011. I am absolutely certain that any fully trained officers are aware of
RIPA and the possible use of RIPA against them should the circumstances
dictate. By answering my request I fail to see how this would suddenly
make an officer cease their activity and attempt to 'cover their tracks',
and therefore is not a valid objection in my opinion.
     
6) "Information compiled for the purposes of an investigation, be it a
criminal investigation or internal misconduct hearing, may contain
information which was obtained, in confidence, from individuals. To
disclose investigative information could dissuade people from providing
information to the police in future thus reducing the flow of information
to the service. The public, be they general members of the public or
internal police officers or staff, must have confidence that their
information is treated sensitively and appropriately." - Once again the
information that I have requested, if supplied, would not dissuade anyone
from supplying information to the police as it is only a number and a
Schedule of Offences that I have requested.
     
7) "Confirming or denying that RIPA is applied to police officers who
misuse social media would increase public scrutiny of police actions and
in turn hold the police service to account" - RIPA should only be used in
cases of alleged Crime. If Police Officers are involved in the commission
of crimes this is of public interest and why should the police service not
be held to account? I do not see this as a valid reason for not
Confirming/Denying and Refusing my request.
     

DECISION

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has completed its review and has
decided to vary the original decision by upholding the original exemptions
stated (section 23(5) - Information supplied by, or concerning, certain
Security bodies; section 44(2) - Prohibitions on disclosure, section 30(3)
Investigations and proceedings conducted by a public authority, section
40(5) Personal Information) and additionally engage section 31(3) - Law
enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA).

The review also acknowledges the delay in you receiving a response.

Review decision in respect of delay to request

The review acknowledges the delay in you receiving a response to your
request and can advise that the statutory time limit for responding to
such a request is set out in section 10(1) FoIA which states ‘a public
authority must comply with section 1 (1) promptly and in any event not
later than the twentieth working day following the date of receipt.’
 Therefore, unless exemptions apply, a public authority must inform the
applicant in writing whether it holds the information requested and if so,
communicate that information to the applicant, promptly, and no later than
20 working days after receipt of the request.

Your request for information was received by the MPS on the 13th November
2012 and therefore a response should have been sent by the 11th December
2012.  The final response was not sent until the 18th December 2012.

The review takes note of your email dated 13th December 2012 in regards to
the delay to your request and the subsequent apology letter sent by the
MPS on the same day. I can confirm that in this instance a failure to
respond to your request within the time limit is a breach of section 10(1)
of the FoIA.

I would like to apologise for the delay to your request and for any
inconvenience caused by our failure to process it correctly.  I hope to
reassure you that the MPS takes compliance with the Act very seriously and
is committed to promoting good practice in this area.

Review decision in respect of original request for information

The FoIA creates a statutory right of access to information held by public
authorities. A public authority in receipt of a request must, if
permitted, confirm if that public authority holds the requested
information and, if so, then communicate that information to the
applicant.  This right of access to information is subject to a number of
exemptions which are designed to enable public authorities to withhold
information that is unsuitable for release.  The FoIA is designed to place
information into the public domain, therefore once information is
disclosed to one person, it is also placed on the public MPS website which
can be found by way of this link:
http://www.met.police.uk/foi/disclosure/...

The review acknowledges your comment ‘Questions 1, 3 and 4 only require a
number as their answer, and Question 2 only requires a Schedule of
Offences’. With this in mind it is the potential value of the number in
the public domain that must be considered and in this context the number
may be significant.

The duty to confirm or deny

The review gives attention to your comment ‘I do not accept that this is a
valid arguement for refusing to Confirm/Deny and Refusal as I specifically
aimed my request at 2011 with the clear intention of avoiding such a
problem as ongoing, current investigations. I most certainly would not
want to be responsible for alerting an officer to the possible
investigation of his/her activities, and so chose a date which should
contain no current investigations.’ and as stated in the original response
that section 1(1) (a) of FoIA requires a public authority to inform a
requestor whether it holds the information specified in the request.  This
is known as the ‘the duty to confirm or deny’.  The Information
Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance states ‘there may be occasions when
complying with the duty to confirm or deny under section 1(1)(a) would
itself disclose sensitive or potentially damaging information that falls
under an exemption...in these circumstances the Act allows a public
authority to respond by refusing to confirm or deny whether it holds the
requested information.  This is called a ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND)
response.’  Further reference can be found by way of this link:
http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/...

The review is guided by the ICO who state ‘for many requests that public
authorities receive, their decision to use a neither confirm nor deny
response won’t be affected by whether they do or don’t in fact hold the
information. The starting point and main focus in most cases will be
theoretical considerations about the consequences of confirming or denying
that a particular type of information is held.’  The ICO further reminds
public authorities that they can only refuse to confirm or deny whether it
holds the information, ‘if this would itself reveal information that falls
under an exemption’.  In this case the MPS has neither confirmed nor
denied information is or is not held by virtue of sections 23(5), 30(3),
44(2) and 40(5).
 
The ICO provides the following advice ‘a particular public authority
should not provide a neither confirm nor deny response to all requests for
all records because some of their records contain sensitive information.
They should base their decision on the circumstances of the particular
case, with regard to the nature of the information requested and with
appropriate consideration given to the public interest test.’  In this
respect the review upholds the original decision and subsequent public
interest considerations to neither confirm nor deny information is or is
not held. I will not reiterate the comprehensive response already provided
to you, which the review found to be robust in this case, and will instead
go on to explain why these exemptions have been engaged.

Section 23 - Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with
security matters

Section 23(5) of the FoIA states that: The duty to confirm or deny does
not arise if, or to the extent that, compliance with section1 (1) (a)
would involve the disclosure of any information (whether or not already
recorded) which was directly or indirectly supplied to the public
authority by, or relates to, any of the bodies specified in subsection
(3).  The full list of bodies specified in section 23(3) can be viewed by
way of this link http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000...

In a recent Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) Decision Notice
FS50443643
http://www.ico.gov.uk/~/media/documents/...
 the Commissioner’s opinion was that ‘the exemption contained at section
23(5) should be interpreted so that it is only necessary for a public
authority to show that either confirmation or denial as to whether the
requested information is held would involve the disclosure of information
relating to a security body.  It is not necessary for a public authority
to demonstrate that both responses would disclose such information.
 Whether or not a security body is interested or involved in a particular
issue is in itself information relating to a security body.’

In FS50443643 the ICO states ‘…it can be seen that section 23(5) has a
very wide application. If the information requested is within what could
be described as the ambit of security bodies’ operations, section 23(5) is
likely to apply.  This is consistent with the scheme of FOIA because the
security bodies themselves are not subject to its provisions. Factors
indicating whether a request is of this nature will include the functions
of the public authority receiving the request, the subject area to which
the request relates and the actual wording of the request.’

With these considerations in mind, the review is satisfied that section
23(5) is appropriately engaged in this case.

Section 30 - Investigations and proceedings conducted by public
authorities

The review has regard for your comment ‘RIPA should only be used in cases
of alleged Crime. If Police Officers are involved in the commission of
crimes this is of public interest and why should the police service not be
held to account? I do not see this as a valid reason for not
Confirming/Denying and Refusing my request…Yet again the information that
I am actually requesting would in no way identify resources available, it
is not a closely guarded secret that people's Twitter or Facebook accounts
can be monitored by almost anyone, so there are no secrets to be divulged
by answering the question.’ And can advise you that section 30(3) of the
FoIA states the duty to confirm or deny does not arise in relation to
information which is (or if it were held by the public authority would be)
exempt information by virtue of subsection (1) or (2).

The ICO has published guidance on the exemption for criminal
investigations and proceedings  (which can be found by way of this link:
http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/...

This guidance states ‘section 30 creates an exemption for information:

·        Which is or has been held for the purposes of a criminal
investigation;

·        Which is or has been held for criminal proceedings conducted by a
public authority; or,

·        Which was obtained or recorded for various investigative
functions and relates to the obtaining of information from confidential
sources.’

The ICO advises ‘before complying with section 1(1)(a) public authorities
should consider both whether any harm would arise from confirming that
information is held and whether harm would arise from stating that no
information is held. Otherwise, if the same (or same type of) requests
were made on several occasions, a changing response could reveal whether
information was held.’ And in this respect the review gives attention to
the initial MPS response which states ‘the MPS will not divulge whether
information is or is not held if to do so would undermine ongoing
investigations...there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding
the integrity of police investigations and operations.’    

With these considerations in mind, the review is satisfied that section
30(3) is appropriately engaged in this case.

Section 31 - Law enforcement

Section 31(3) FoIA states the duty to confirm or deny does not arise if,
or to the extent that, compliance with section 1(1)(a) would, or would be
likely to, prejudice any of the matters mentioned in subsection (1).
Further reference can be found by way of this link:
http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/l...

The review acknowledges your comments ‘Once again I am not requesting
details of methodology, merely a numerical response and a Schedule of
Offences. I require no further information than that. I fail to see how
this would compromise anything… Once again the information that I have
requested, if supplied, would not dissuade anyone from supplying
information to the police as it is only a number and a Schedule of
Offences that I have requested.’ and in this respect is satisfied that by
confirming or denying such information is or is not held would be
detrimental to the function of law enforcement in the prevention and
detection of crime, by providing those individuals who would wish to cause
harm with invaluable intelligence and, as a consequence, making it more
difficult for the MPS to police effectively.  This adverse effect was
highlighted in the original response namely ‘to disclose investigative
information could dissuade people from providing information to the police
in the future thus reducing the flow of information to the service...’
thereby hampering our law enforcement functions.

With these considerations in mind, the review is satisfied that section
31(3) is appropriately engaged in this case.

Section 40(5)(b)(i) - Personal Information

In ICO decision notice FS50459233
 http://www.ico.gov.uk/~/media/documents/...
the ICO states ‘The provisions of section 40 subsections 1 to 4 generally
exempt personal data from unfair disclosure. In relation to a request for
the personal data of individuals other than the applicant (i.e. the person
making the request), section 40(5)(b)(i) further excludes a public
authority from complying with the duty imposed by section 1(1)(a)2 if to
do so would reveal personal data and contravene any of the data protection
principles. Therefore, a public authority is by virtue of section
40(5)(b)(i) excluded from confirming or denying it holds requested
information if to do otherwise would reveal personal data and contravene
any of the data protection principles. The review has followed these same
considerations below:

Is the requested information personal data?

The review has regard for your comment ‘Once again, I am only requesting
numbers and a Schedule of Offences relating to 2011. I am absolutely
certain that any fully trained officers are aware of RIPA and the possible
use of RIPA against them should the circumstances dictate.’ And can advise
that Personal data is defined in section 1(1) of the Data Protection Act
1998 (DPA) as:

‘data which relate to a living individual who can be identified from those
data, or from those data and other information which is in the possession
of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the data controller, and
includes any expression of opinion about the individual and any indication
of the intention of the data controller or any other person in respect of
the individual.’

You have requested information in relation to how many RIPA applications
were made by members of your Force in relation to Police Officers' use of
Social Media or e-mail and that they are the focus of the information
which would be revealed.  The review is therefore satisfied that the
requested information is personal data within the meaning of section 1(1)
of the DPA. The review is satisfied that confirming or denying whether the
MPS holds the requested information would reveal personal data.  The
result of any searches including the absence of any data would reveal
information about individuals.  

Would complying with section 1(1)(a) contravene any of the Data Protection
Principles?

Section 1(1)(a) FoIA states ‘any person making a request for information
to a public authority is entitled (a) to be informed in writing by the
public authority whether it holds information of the description specified
in the request.’

For section 40(5)(b)(i) FoIA to apply, complying with the duty under
section 1(1)(a) must reveal personal data and contravene any of the data
protection principles. The MPS has found that the first data protection
principle to be the relevant in this case, which states ‘Personal data
shall be processed fairly and lawfully and in particular shall not be
processed unless a) at least one of the conditions in DPA schedule 2 is
met, and
b) in the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions
in schedule 3 is also met’.

The review is also mindful of the legislation under section 2 DPA which
defines ‘sensitive personal data’ as personal data consisting of
information as to (g) the commission or alleged commission by him of any
offence. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998.... The nature
of the information being requested by you, if held, is therefore likely to
fall into the category of ‘sensitive personal information’ category and/or
enable such inferences to be made. Therefore, any statement confirming or
denying whether this information is or is not held could disclose
sensitive personal data either in isolation or when combined with other
information which may be in the public domain.  

The ICO further states ‘There may be circumstances, for example requests
for information about criminal investigations or disciplinary records, in
which simply to confirm whether or not a public authority holds that
personal data about an individual can itself reveal something about that
individual. To either confirm or deny that the information is held could
indicate that a person is or is not the subject of a criminal
investigation or a disciplinary process. If to do so would contravene data
protection principles, for example because it would be unfair, then the
public authority is not obliged to confirm or deny that it holds the
information.’ Further details can be found by way of this link
http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/...

With these considerations in mind, the review is satisfied that section
40(5) is appropriately engaged in this case.

Section 44 - Prohibitions on disclosure

Section 44(2) states the duty to confirm or deny does not arise if the
confirmation or denial that would have to be given to comply with section
1(1)(a) would (apart from this Act) fall within any paragraph (a) to (c)
of subsection (1), namely (a) is prohibited by or under any enactment, (b)
is incompatible with any Community obligation, or (c) would constitute or
be punishable as a contempt of court.

The ICO guidance clarifies that ‘section 44(2) provides an exemption from
the duty to confirm or deny whether information is held. It may, on rare
occasions, be necessary neither to confirm nor deny that information is
held if this is a requirement under other legislation, or under certain
conditions or processes as specified in s44…although the number of
occasions when a public authority will be justified in neither confirming
nor denying that it holds information requested may not be very large, the
Act acknowledges that such occasions may arise.’

In this respect the review takes account of the original MPS response
which mentions ‘under Chapter 1 of part 1 of the RIPA legislation, it may
actually be a criminal offence to do so (Section 19)’ and can advise that
section 19 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) creates an
offence for unauthorised disclosures as follows:

(1) Where an interception warrant has been issued or renewed, it shall be
the duty of every person falling within subsection (2) to keep secret all
the matters mentioned in subsection (3).

(2)The persons falling within this subsection are—

(a) the persons specified in section 6(2);
(b) every person holding office under the Crown;
(c) every member of the staff of the Serious Organised Crime Agency;]
(ca) every member of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency;]
(e) every person employed by or for the purposes of a police force;
(f) persons providing postal services or employed for the purposes of any
business of providing such a service;
(g) persons providing public telecommunications services or employed for
the purposes of any business of providing such a service;
(h) persons having control of the whole or any part of a telecommunication
system located wholly or partly in the United Kingdom.

(3)Those matters are—

(a) the existence and contents of the warrant and of any section 8(4)
certificate in relation to the warrant;
(b) the details of the issue of the warrant and of any renewal or
modification of the warrant or of any such certificate;
(c) the existence and contents of any requirement to provide assistance
with giving effect to the warrant;
(d) the steps taken in pursuance of the warrant or of any such
requirement; and
(e) everything in the intercepted material, together with any related
communications data.

Further reference to the relevant legislation can be found by way of this
link http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000...

The review is satisfied that section 44(2) is engaged because the act of
confirming or denying if the requested information is held would, in
itself, involve the disclosure of information covered by a statutory
prohibition.

Conclusion

I hope the explanation provided clarifies why the MPS maintains its stance
to neither confirm nor deny that information is or is not held in regards
to your request by virtue of section 23(5) - Information supplied by, or
concerning, certain Security bodies; section 30(3) Investigations and
proceedings conducted by a public authority; section 44(2) Prohibitions on
disclosure, section 40(5) - personal information and additionally section
31(3) - Law enforcement.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Your attention is drawn to the attached sheet which details your right of
complaint.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please
contact Mike Lyng on 0207 161 3605 or write quoting the reference number
above.

Yours sincerely

Mike Lyng
FoIA Quality and Assurance Advisor
COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Are you unhappy with how your request has been handled or do you think the
decision is incorrect?

You have the right to require the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to
review their decision.

Prior to lodging a formal complaint you are welcome and encouraged to
discuss the decision with the case officer that dealt with your request.  

Ask to have the decision looked at again –

The quickest and easiest way to have the decision looked at again is to
telephone the case officer that is nominated at the end of your decision
letter.

That person will be able to discuss the decision, explain any issues and
assist with any problems.

Complaint

If you are dissatisfied with the handling procedures or the decision of
the MPS made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) regarding
access to information you can lodge a complaint with the MPS to have the
decision reviewed.

Complaints should be made in writing, within forty (40) working days from
the date of the refusal notice, and addressed to:

FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192
London
SW6 1SF
[email address]

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your
complaint within 20 working days.
The Information Commissioner

After lodging a complaint with the MPS if you are still dissatisfied with
the decision you may make application to the Information Commissioner for
a decision on whether the request for information has been dealt with in
accordance with the requirements of the Act.

For information on how to make application to the Information Commissioner
please visit their website at www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.
 Alternatively, phone or write to:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Phone:  01625 545 700

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