Yoxall Grave Desecration Posthumous Award

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Staffordshire Police should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear Staffordshire Police,

In January 2018, I made a FIO request in respect of commendations awarded to officers involved in the high profile investigation into the desecration of a grave by animal rights activists. That request was allocated your reference number of 9038 & 9138.

In the course of that request process, it became apparent that the commendation awards had received additional press coverage in the Burton Mail following the inquest into the tragic suicide of an officer who had worked on the investigation.

The Burton Mail article indicated that Staffordshire Police had provided some form of press briefing, which included details of the officer's career, a posthumous commendation award, and references to an investigation that officer was under at the time of death.

Following an Internal Review into the previous request I asked for details of the later press statement/request concerning the inquest into the officer's death. This material was not provided. I have contacted the Information Commissioner regarding this additional material and I have been advised to make a fresh FIO clearly outlining my request for this later information, please understand that this is not a duplicated request.

This case highlights an unusual situation where a police officer commits suicide whilst under investigation, and Staffordshire Police then award a posthumous Commendation to the officer, without any details of the original matter under investigation being revealed.

I would like to request the following information.

1. Copies of any press statement or briefing given by Staffordshire Police to the Burton Mail or any other media body which relates to the any of the following ( I appreciate that press statements may cover more than one of the sub sections) :-

a) The inquest into the circumstances of the officer's death.
b) The matter for which the officer was under investigation.
c) The Commendation awarded to the officer

2. Details of the matter for which the deceased officer was under investigation, together with copies of the following:-

a) Any custody record relating to the matter.
b) Any incident log relating to the matter.
c) Any crime complaint raised in the course of the investigation, including how the crime complaint was finalised.
d) Any report(s) submitted to the CPS together with any advice received which relates to the investigation.
e) Copies of any other reports relating to the officer's alleged conduct.
f) An copy of the report which recommended the deceased officer receive a commendation and the full unredacted commendation citation posthumously awarded.

3. I understand that following the officer's death an independent investigation was carried out, please provide a copy of the report from that investigation.

The requested material will clearly include personal information of a number of individuals and some redaction will be necessary. Under the DPA the personal information relating to a deceased person is not covered by the Act and therefore should not be redacted under that exemption.

Should there be any confusion about the material requested please contact me for clarification.

Yours faithfully,

Mr L. Anderson

Staffordshire Police

Thank you for your FOI request, you will receive a response in due course.
Kind regards,
Freedom of Information
Central Disclosure Unit
Staffordshire Police

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Freedom of Information, Staffordshire Police

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Anderson,

 

I am dealing with your Freedom of Information request but I do not know
the identity of the officer whom you refer to in your question.

 

Could you please name the individual concerned so that I can service your
request.

 

Kind regards,

[1]https://sp-intranet.staffordshire.police...

Freedom of Information

Central Disclosure Unit

Staffordshire Police HQ

P.O. Box 3167

Stafford

ST16 9JZ

E: [2][Staffordshire Police request email]

 

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2. mailto:[Staffordshire Police request email]

Dear Freedom of Information,

Thank you for your email seeking clarification on the name of the individual concerned, to assist you I have copeied the text from a report in the Burton Mail that relates to this matter and names the officer concerned. Should you require any further clarification please let me know.

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ONE of the police heroes of the campaign to track down animal rights fanatics who terrorised a guinea pig farm near Burton killed herself while under investigation by her own force, an inquest has heard.

Heather Williamson - who was said to be 'living in terror' after extremists discovered her home address - heard that she would have been vindicated by the probe.

Staffordshire Police has never revealed why she was being investigated, but the inquest heard she was left too long without information about the inquiry's progress.

The force has admitted it made mistakes and issued a formal apology to Miss Williamson's family.

The 44-year-old was honoured posthumously for her part in convicting extremists who terrorised the owners, staff and business associates of Darley Oaks Farm, in Newchurch, which bred guinea pigs for medical research.

She was found by her parents hanged at her home on December 6, 2006 - the day before she was due to be updated on the investigation.

Miss Williamson had served 17 years with the force and had worked in child protection, the vice and paedophile unit and the major investigations department, working her way up to detective sergeant.

She was part of the team which successfully investigated the terror campaign against Darley Oaks Farm, resulting in four extremists being jailed for conspiracy to blackmail after the body of Gladys Hammond, a relative of one of the farm's owners, were stolen from her grave in Yoxall.

The inquest came a year to the day after her parents received a commendation which was awarded posthumously for her work on the investigation.

The Cannock hearing was told Miss Williamson was involved in a road accident in June, 2006, which left her with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She became depressed and was referred to a clinical psychologist, Dr Sali Khan, who told the inquest Miss Williamson was suffering from flashbacks of the accident and was also 'living in terror' after animal rights protesters found out her home address in Stone, Staffordshire.

Her GP, Dr Malcolm Mackinnon, said he had seen Miss Williamson more than two weeks before her death.

He said: "From recollection she was improving. She said she was having some good days."

Detective Sergeant John Bloor, a former Burton CID officer who was appointed as her welfare officer, said he was so concerned about her, he referred the matter to the force's welfare department, his line manager and other interested parties.

He said: "She mentioned suicide and we discussed suicide. I tried to talk to Heather at length about the positives in her life, to deflect away from her belief at that time that she shouldn't be alive."

Recording a verdict of suicide, South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh said: "I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Heather intended to kill herself and that's what she did."

A spokesman for the county force said: "We must stress that, although DC Williamson had been under investigation, no wrong-doing was ultimately established. We have liaised closely with DC Williamson's parents throughout the entire process, and have formally apologised to them for the mistakes we made."

Her grieving parents, paying tribute to their daughter in a statement read out to the hearing, said: "This is a tribute to our beloved daughter. She was in every sense of the word a lady. Where Heather was, there was laughter.

"Up until the time of her road accident, Heather had not had a day off sick in the last 10 years and was a healthy, happy, active person who loved life.

"Heather had almost 17 years in the police service, with an exemplary record and had several commendations from the Chief Constable - the last one being awarded posthumously for the work done with the team who brought the animal rights activists to justice."

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Yours sincerely,

Mr L. Anderson

Freedom of Information, Staffordshire Police

Dear Mr Anderson,

Thank you for your email,

I will continue with your request.

Kind regards,

Freedom of Information
Central Disclosure Unit
Staffordshire Police HQ
P.O. Box 3167
Stafford
ST16 9JZ
E: [Staffordshire Police request email]

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Freedom of Information, Staffordshire Police

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Anderson,

 

Apologies for the delay, please see the attached response to your Freedom
of Information request.

 

Kind regards,

[1]https://sp-intranet.staffordshire.police...

Freedom of Information

Central Disclosure Unit

Staffordshire Police HQ

P.O. Box 3167

Stafford

ST16 9JZ

E: [2][Staffordshire Police request email]

 

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2. mailto:[Staffordshire Police request email]

Dear Staffordshire Police,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Staffordshire Police's handling of my FOI request 'Yoxall Grave Desecration Posthumous Award'.

Earlier today (Thursday 21st June 2018) I received an unnamed response to my request for information, exactly 20 days after the request was received, given that this request was not unduly complex responding at the last hour does not suggest that it was dealt with promptly as required by the Act.

The FOIA states "Authorities must respond to requests promptly, and by the twentieth working day following the date of receipt of the request."

The response states that Staffordshire Police holds some of the information requested but, refuses to release any information citing Section 40(2) Personal Information and Section 38(1) Health and Safety as its justification.
My request was in three parts, some of which were sub-divided. The response received does not indicate which of the individual parts that Staffordshire Police holds information about, or which exemption it is applying under section 17(1). The guidance issued by the Information Commissioner indicates that clearly indicating any exemption applied to each class of information being withheld is best practice, doing so may also help the requestor understand the position taken and avoid unnecessary requests for Internal Reviews or ICO appeals.

In this case I have not sought personal information about any individual other than the officer that was posthumously awarded with a Chief Constable's commendation. The Data Protection Act clearly states that personal information must relate to a living person therefore the S40(2) exemption cannot be applied to the deceased officer.

The second exemption cited is S38(1) Health and Safety a prejudice-based, qualified exemption.
Staffordshire Police suggests that disclosure of the information sought may result in distress to the family and friends of the deceased officer, and in addition states:-

"Furthermore, due to the threats made against any persons connected with the Yoxall Grave Desecration enquiry, which also applied to the Officers’ families, there is a likely endangerment should information be disclosed. "

I share Staffordshire Police's wish to avoid any distress to the family of the officer, however provided that the family were not mislead at the time of the officer's death I do not see how the information will result in any risk to the health or safety of the family or any other persons. I do agree that on occasions the mere mention of a deceased family member or close friend may bring back upsetting memories, however such emotions do not constitute a risk to their Health and Safety under S38(1) FIOA.

Part 1 of my request relates to press briefings issued to media outlets including the Burton Mail. I have previous provided in a clarification to this request the text of one article in which Staffordshire Police apparently briefed the Burton Mail following the inquest into the officer's death.

In the article the deceased officer is named and there are references her being under of investigation at the time of her death. Given that Staffordshire Police were prepared to name the officer in the press and provide details of her connection to the Yoxall investigation it is difficult to understand why Staffordshire Police now feels that it justified in withholding information under S40(2).

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

The Burton Mail article suggests that "no wrong-doing was ultimately established", this is an important statement given that the Chief Constable posthumously awarded the deceased officer. The public have the right to know whether the statements given to the Burton Mail were a true and accurate account of the investigation at the time of the officer's death.

Any deliberately misleading statements made by the Police Service would be detrimental to public trust, the release of the information will enable the public to see whether Staffordshire Police acted with honesty and integrity or whether the public and Burton Mail were given deliberately false and misleading information.

The suggestion in the above quoted paragraph from Staffordshire Police's response suggesting that releasing information requested under the FIO, poses a risk to the Health and Safety of the deceased officer's family or other unidentified third parties is in my opinion fanciful. In 2007, Staffordshire Police released a media statement featuring a long list of officer's names who had been commended for their contribution to the investigation ( Please see the following link).

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/4...)

If over ten years ago when the investigation was still fresh in peoples minds, Staffordshire Police felt that it was safe to release the names of officers commended for the work on the enquiry, how can it now claim that releasing any information relating an officer that committed suicide whilst under investigation for as yet unspecified matters, could place any person in danger.

More recently DCC Baker detailed his involvement as the SIO of the investigation on his biography on the Staffordshire Police website. (https://www.staffordshire.police.uk/arti...). As Mr Baker is a family man, it is hard to believe that he would go out of his way to highlight his involvement in the Yoxall investigation if there was any intelligence to support Staffordshire Police's suggestion that such information could place him or his family at risk from animal rights extremists.

I would ask that the internal review considers the matters highlighted above.

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

Yours faithfully,

Mr L. Anderson

Staffordshire Police

Thank you for your FOI request.  You will receive a response in due
course.
Regards
Freedom of Information
Central Disclosure Unit
Staffordshire Police HQ
PO Box 3167
Stafford
ST16 9JZ
T:  Switchboard 101
E:  [Staffordshire Police request email]

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Freedom of Information, Staffordshire Police

1 Attachment

 

Dear Mr Anderson

 

You have requested an internal review of previous log 9490.  The purpose
of an internal review is to re-visit the original request.

 

Regarding the below question:

 

2e)  Copies of any other reports relating to the officer’s alleged
conduct.

 

Please can you clarify if this relates to the officer’s conduct relating
to any incident/conduct/performance/capabilities throughout the officer’s
career with Staffordshire Police.

 

Please provide clarification by 17/07/18.  This request is on hold until a
response is received.

 

Regards

 

 

[1]https://sp-intranet.staffordshire.police...

 

Freedom of Information

Central Disclosure Unit

Staffordshire Police HQ

PO Box 3167

Stafford

ST16 9JZ

T:  Switchboard 101

E:  [2][Staffordshire Police request email]

 

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References

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2. mailto:[Staffordshire Police request email]

Dear Freedom of Information,

That you for your correspondence dated 10th July 2018, I note that you request for clarification on one point comes two weeks after my last correspondence. I do hope that this late request for clarification will not delay this matter beyond the usually timescale for an internal review.

In respect of point:- 2(e) Copies of any other reports relating to the officer’s alleged conduct.
The information I seek concerns the matter leading to the officers arrest and suspension just prior to her tragic suicide. This includes the matter for which she was initially arrested, and any other matters indentified during the subsequent investigation.

Yours sincerely,

Mr L. Anderson

Freedom of Information, Staffordshire Police

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Anderson

 

Please see attached response to your Freedom of Information request.

 

Regards

 

 

[1]https://sp-intranet.staffordshire.police...

 

Freedom of Information

Central Disclosure Unit

Staffordshire Police HQ

PO Box 3167

Stafford

ST16 9JZ

T:  Switchboard 101

E:  [2][Staffordshire Police request email]

 

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References

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2. mailto:[Staffordshire Police request email]

Mr L. Anderson left an annotation ()

Despite previously releasing significant details, including photographs and officer's names to the press, Staffordshire Police are now unwilling provide any information relating to this request, citing a number of statutory exemptions. I will be referring this matter to the Information Commissioner for further investigation.

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