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Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

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Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

Post by Tony Bennett on 22.09.16 12:21

I have sent the same letter to the Home Office FOI Act section.

( @ Doug D   I noted your advice to 'go straight to an appeal' but on balance I thought the better way forward was to see what I could tease out by way of an internal review ) 

------------------------  
22 September 2016

To the Senior Metropolitan Police Officer in the FOI Act section reviewing the case, attention Michela Holmes

Freedom of Information Request Reference Nos : 2016070000798 and 2016070000799


I have elected to exercise my right to have the decision review of Michela Holmes, rather than take this matter direct to the Information Commissioner, in the hope that the issues raised below can be fully dealt with.

I must first raise matters concerning the following statement by you in answer to request  2016070000799:   “I note that you have now made 15 requests under the Act in relation to Operation Grange. The MPS has responded to each request, however the MPS
has committed considerable time in responding to each of your requests which have been overlapping in content.  Any future requests to the MPS on a similar subject are likely to fall within the provisions of Section 14 of the Act (repetitious or vexatious requests)”.


I do not recollect having made 15 requests, but as you clearly have a note of all the dates, please supply the dates and reference numbers of each request. You have made a sweeping statement that “each of your requests have been overlapping in content”. I firmly reject that claim. If you suggest that any one claim clearly overlaps with another, please provide all examples of what you claim are overlapping examples. It is necessary that you should do this because you then go on to claim that “any” (i.e. all) requests made in future are likely to be deemed ‘repetitious or vexatious’. If you have made such a ruling, with respect you must justify it by providing all specific examples of where you say I have made overlapping requests.

I would also with respect remind you that only a request can be deemed vexatious, not the requester. Please confirm that you acknowledge this very important point.

Before going on to address specific points in your replies, on which I now appeal to your senior Met Police FOI Act officer, I invite the Head of your FOIAct section to consider the following points in relation to Operation Grange:

1 When the remit of Operation Grange was eventually released - incidentally in response to one of my FOI Act requests, which was clearly not unreasonable - the remit included these words:   “The ‘investigative review’ will be conducted with transparency, openness and thoroughness…”  The Met Police FOI Act Section, when answering any FOI Act question, from myself or anyone else, about Operation Grange, should always have that part of their remit firmly in mind  

2 The Madeleine McCann case is one of exceptional public interest and remains so  after 9 years. It is also highly controversial. The Met/Home Office admit to having spent around £13 million on it so far, over more than 5 years, without apparent result. It is inevitable that such a controversial investigation will elicit FOI Act questions from journalists and the public.

Dealing with my two specific FOI Act questions, they are about the expenditure of Operation Grange (including and demands for payment by the Portuguese authorities,  about who authorises and pays for its costs, and when, and by whom, decisions to allocate extra funding are made.

These should not be difficult questions to answer. Operation Grange has an Investigation Officer, initially DCI Andy Redwood, and later DCI Nicola Wall. It has a Senior Investigating Officer, initially Hamish Campbell. We know from many public, on-the-record statements that other, more senior staff, up to Assistant Commissioner level, are involved in this case on a regular basis. It is undoubtedly a case where Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met Police Commissioner, and indeed senior Home Office civil servants and Home Office Ministers themselves will be very familiar with this case and many of these would be very simply able to answer both sets of questions I have posed.   Neither of my requests, as you acknowledge by implication, raises any issue of the information sought being exempt from disclosure under the Act.   

To make my point still clearer, on Sunday 18 September the Sunday Express published an article, clearly based on information from Met Police sources, about a six-month extension for Operation Grange, and the allocation of £100,000 further expenditure. The article said:

“Financing for the four-strong team of officers working on Operation Grange was due to end in October. But a fresh request, believed to be for a sum of around £100,000, was submitted to the Home Office as the deadline approached and has now been signed off.  A Whitehall source had indicated funding would be approved if “compelling evidence that justifies the use of additional taxpayers’ money” was provided by the team. A spokesman for the Home Office said on Friday: “We have provided the Metropolitan Police with the funding required for Operation Grange to continue until at least the end of this financial year. “The resources required will be reviewed again at this point.

What is plain from this report is that on a certain date, a certain individual from Operation Grange or the Met Police made a request for more funding, and again, on a certain date, a certain individual at the Home Office approved it. It is quite clear that information must be held by both the Met Police and the Home Office about this transaction. It would be the easiest thing in the world for an FOI Act officer to contact a senior Meet Police officer and ask him/her to provide this information, which must be logged.

This process of Met Police request, followed by Home Office approval, has taken place on certain dates in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and twice in 2016. I simply seek to know, in each case (I will slightly amplify my request on this occasion):

A Who asked for the extra funding (name or rank of officer?

B On what date did the Met make the request?

C How much was asked for?

D Who at the Home Office communicated the decision to the Met Police?

E Who ’signed off’ the request (name or rank of Minister or civil servant)?, and

F What amount of extra funding was granted?

You have already answered question (F). The other questions are capable of a swift answer from those in a positon to know the answers and since some of the details of these transactions are already known, it can hardly be a problem to provide some further information about them.

Providing the amounts of money allocated each year was not my main question. I was specifically interested in the dates and details of the process of request and reply.

Dealing with Request No. 2016070000799, you replied: “To locate the information relevant to your request searches were conducted at Operation Grange.  The searches failed to locate any information relevant to your request, therefore, the information you have requested is not held by the MPS”. 

I cannot accept that as a reasonable or honest answer to my question. There has been extensive coverage in the media about the Portuguese authorities billing the MET Police or the Home Office for their costs. Those leading Operation Grange and those from whom they seek funding at the Home Office will know precisely what amounts (if any) have been requested by Portugal and what has been paid. Therefore, I suggest the range of possible valid responses by yourselves to my FOI requests would be one of these:

A £x has been requested by the Portuguese authorities and £x has been paid, or
B No request has yet been made by the Portuguese authorities, or
C The information is held by the Home Office (or another government department) so you will need to ask them.

Bearing in mind the duty of all FOI Act officers to be helpful wherever possible, to enable the public to obtain answers, and taking into consideration Operation Grange’s remit which specifically includes transparency and openness, please now answer those questions about any demands for payment from Portugal.

In relation to Request No. 2016070000798, you have answered Question 3. I now seek to vary slightly my Questions 1 and 2, as follows:
1. The precise calendar date when the original allocation of funds was made (you have told me it was £2.5 million so I don’t need you to answer the rest of the question) ?
2. For each subsequent extension of funds, please state: (a) The precise calendar date on which application was made for further funding (b) How much on each occasion the Met Police applied for (c) the name or rank of the officer Met Police officer making the request (d) The precise calendar date on which the Home Secretary (or Junior Minister or civil servant) approved additional funds, and (e) In each case, the name or rank of the Minister or civil servant who approved extra funding and what was granted, and for what precise future period of time.(You have already answered my questions about the amount allocated.


If it be objected that the Home Office is a third party and their consent needs to be obtained before disclosing the information, please consider that in order to extract  the information I seek, the senior Met Officer responsible for Operation Grange can very easily speak to his opposite number in the Home Office and obtain the necessary information. It would be a simple matter to resolve and would put to bed this particular couple of FOI Act requests.  

I am not seeking anything very complicated. Nor anything that’s meant to be a secret and can’t be disclosed or is exempt. The FOI Act is meant to assist the public in getting answers to straightforward requests for information like these two.

Sincerely

Anthony Bennett


____________________


2007 (28 June) Dr Gerry McCann: “I have no doubt we will be able to sustain a high profile for Madeleine’s disappearance in the long-term”.

2017 (February) Dr Kate McCannthrust into a global bidding war…news giants battle to sign her up for the 10th anniversary…offered huge bids…bombarded with offers…30 sitting on the table…getting new bids every other day…one told Kate and Gerry: ‘Name your price!’
                        

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Re: Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

Post by aquila on 22.09.16 12:32

Outstanding Tony.
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Re: Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

Post by jeanmonroe on 22.09.16 12:51

So, a £15+MILLION (FIVE YEARS, FULL TIME, MET POLICE 'INVESTIGATION') =  'NO result, or conclusion, no idea', but, BUT.... with ONLY...................ANOTHER £100,000 (SIX MONTHS 'INVESTIGATION') = 'RESULT, conclusion, final, indisputable, 'truth' about a three years old 'disappearance', LAST seen 'alive', (admitted) by her own parents'?

Hmmmm.

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Re: Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

Post by Verdi on 22.09.16 12:52

Superb - straight for the jugular. thumbsup

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Re: Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

Post by MayMuse on 22.09.16 13:29

@TonyBennet
Has it already gone ? If not you may want to change the accidental misspelling on the following paragraph

What is plain from this report is that on a certain datea certain individual from Operation Grange or the Met Police made a request for more funding, and again, on a certain datea certain individualat the Home Office approved it. It is quite clear that information must be held by both the Met Police and the Home Office about this transaction. It would be the easiest thing in the world for an FOI Act officer to contact a senior Meet Police officer and ask him/her to provide this information, which must be logged.


If it has I'm sure they will know exactly what you mean. 


Thank you for all that you have done and are doing, I hope they sit up and take notice and comply as they should! 

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“Basically, I’m just an ordinary, straightforward guy who’s the victim of the biggest f***-up on this planet – if you’ll excuse the language.”

Robert Murat talking to David Jones, Daily Mail, 02 June 2007

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Re: Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

Post by Doug D on 22.09.16 14:00

Well done TB. Keep on battling.
 
It’ll be interesting to see if they are prepared to back down at this stage having made their nonsensical position quite clear.
 
I don’t know if you have seen the FOI response for Operation Midland that I posted up on the Fernbridge thread, but whilst they have answered pretty much all the questions, some of the responses make minimal sense, especially the ‘cost’ ones, where they have said virtually the same as their response to you for OG.
 
   
When I complain about anything, I always address a letter straight to the CEO, with a signed receipt required. They still get dealt with by the same people, but I always feel they have to take a bit more care when they have to feed back a report to the top (wo)man as well.

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Re: Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

Post by Tony Bennett on 23.09.16 9:28

It seems I am not the only ine battling to get information out of the government about how much (if anything) they have paid the Portuguese authorities in respect of Operation Grange's investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

One of CMOMM's many guests [name redacted] has sent me this correspondence overnight - and he has even taken the enquiry to Sam Topdd at the government's Cabinet Office! 

Here is the run of e-mails he has very kindly sent me - read from the bottom up:

-------------------------------------   
Today at 4:43
On 21 Sep 2016 17:37, "FOI Team Mailbox" wrote:

Mr [redacted]  

I apologise for the confusion. I cannot confirm the Home Office will hold this information but think it likely. Potentially this funding if any may be supplied by the relevant police forces. I would suggest that you contact the Home Office as a first step. We have not undertaken our formal review of your case but given our indication we do not hold this information and policy in this area lies elsewhere in government I would suggest you may be better served by looking elsewhere rather than following the formal review route. 

Sam Todd, Head of FOI, Cabinet Office

++++++

On 21 September 2016 at 16:38, FOI Team Mailbox foi-team@cabinetoffice.gov.uk  wrote: 
From [redacted]  19 September 2016 at 18:21
Subject: Operation Grange
To: FOI Team Mailbox foi-team@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

Apologies, I'm slightly confused. Have you carried out the review? If this is the case then you are telling me the Home Office is responsible for payment to the Portuguese authorities?


++++++

On 19 Sep 2016 17:54, "FOI Team Mailbox" foi-team@cabinetoffice.gov.uk  wrote:

Mr [redacted]

I have reviewed the reply in your case and note that it suggested that you may wish to contact the Home Office. They can be contacted at foirequests@homeoffice.gsi. gov.uk

Sam Todd, Head of FOI Cabinet Office
 
++++++

On 19 September 2016 at 17:45, [redacted] wrote:

On 19 Sep 2016 16:28, "FOI Team Mailbox" foi-team@cabinetoffice.gov.uk wrote:

Dear [redacted]

Before we can proceed, could you please confirm the reference number of the case you are referring to. 

Regards

FOI Team
 
++++++

On 19 September 2016 at 13:17, [redacted] wrote:

Thank you for your reply. Could you kindly review your response. It seems an impossibility that your office is unaware of which department, if any, makes payment to the Portuguese authorities in this matter. Further you have no record of this. Perhaps I need to redefine my question.


===============

It is absolutely clear to me that those who run Operation Grange, and their Home Office colleagues with whom they liaise, know exactly whether Portugal has made any demands for payment and, if so, how much has been demanded. Why can't they answer the question, then?  

____________________


2007 (28 June) Dr Gerry McCann: “I have no doubt we will be able to sustain a high profile for Madeleine’s disappearance in the long-term”.

2017 (February) Dr Kate McCannthrust into a global bidding war…news giants battle to sign her up for the 10th anniversary…offered huge bids…bombarded with offers…30 sitting on the table…getting new bids every other day…one told Kate and Gerry: ‘Name your price!’
                        

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Re: Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

Post by BlueBag on 23.09.16 9:31

Remind me again of the significance of the requested information?
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Re: Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

Post by Tony Bennett on 23.09.16 9:41

@BlueBag wrote:Remind me again of the significance of the requested information?
There were many statements in the press in 2014 saying that the Portuguese authorities would be billing the British government for their assistance, primarily with the high profile but abortive search, with helicopters, of two patches of waste ground in Praia da Luz.

Items to be charged would probably include:

* Hiring of a top-of-the-range Alouette Mark III Portuguese military helicopter
* Translation services
* Deployment of police officers to manage and guard the search sites
etc.

I simply want to know how much Portugal has demanded (if anything) and, if so, how much has been paid.

____________________


2007 (28 June) Dr Gerry McCann: “I have no doubt we will be able to sustain a high profile for Madeleine’s disappearance in the long-term”.

2017 (February) Dr Kate McCannthrust into a global bidding war…news giants battle to sign her up for the 10th anniversary…offered huge bids…bombarded with offers…30 sitting on the table…getting new bids every other day…one told Kate and Gerry: ‘Name your price!’
                        

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Re: Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

Post by aquila on 23.09.16 11:52

@Tony Bennett wrote:
@BlueBag wrote:Remind me again of the significance of the requested information?
There were many statements in the press in 2014 saying that the Portuguese authorities would be billing the British government for their assistance, primarily with the high profile but abortive search, with helicopters, of two patches of waste ground in Praia da Luz.

Items to be charged would probably include:

* Hiring of a top-of-the-range Alouette Mark III Portuguese military helicopter
* Translation services
* Deployment of police officers to manage and guard the search sites
etc.

I simply want to know how much Portugal has demanded (if anything) and, if so, how much has been paid.
I don't think that was what BlueBag was getting at Tony.
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Re: Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

Post by Tony Bennett on 27.09.16 8:03

The Home Office responded last week to my request for an internal review of my two FOI Act requests (below).

The Metropolitan Police replied a few minutes ago (also below).

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

Dear Anthony Bennett,

Thank you for contacting the Home Office with your request for an Internal Review.

This has been assigned to a caseworker (retaining case ref 40224). We will aim to send you a full response by 20/10/16 which is twenty working days from the date we received your request.

If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thank you,

A Callaghan
FOI Requests
Home Office


------

Dear Anthony Bennett,

Thank you for contacting the Home Office with your request for an Internal Review.

This has been assigned to a caseworker (retaining case ref 40443). We will aim to send you a full response by 20/10/16 which is twenty working days from the date we received your request.

If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thank you,

A Callaghan
FOI Requests
Home Office


------


Dear Mr Bennett

Freedom of Information Review Reference No: 2016090000868 

I write in connection with your request for a review of the handling
and/or decision relating to  2016070000798 and 2016070000799   which was
received by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on  22/09/2016.
 

A review will now be conducted in accordance with the Code of Practice
issued under Section 45 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act). 


The reviewing officer will reconsider the original request before
responding to you with their findings.
 

There is no statutory time limit in relation to the completion of an
Internal Review.  However, the MPS aim to complete Internal Reviews within
20 working days or in exceptional cases, within 40 working days.  This is
based upon guidance published by the Information Commissioner.


If it is not possible to complete the Internal Review within this
timescale you will be informed at the earliest opportunity.
 

If you are unhappy with the outcome of an Internal Review you may wish to
refer the matter to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
 

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


Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Phone:  0303 123 1113
 

Yours sincerely 

R. Loizou
Support Officer - Freedom of Information Triage Team

____________________


2007 (28 June) Dr Gerry McCann: “I have no doubt we will be able to sustain a high profile for Madeleine’s disappearance in the long-term”.

2017 (February) Dr Kate McCannthrust into a global bidding war…news giants battle to sign her up for the 10th anniversary…offered huge bids…bombarded with offers…30 sitting on the table…getting new bids every other day…one told Kate and Gerry: ‘Name your price!’
                        

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Re: Challenge to the Met Police and the Home Office over their non-supply of information about Operation Grange - Internal Reviews sought (22 Sep 2016)

Post by MayMuse on 27.09.16 8:20

Well I never, a case worker and a review, about time!
Positive steps,  dare I hold my breath?  smilie 
Well done Mr Bennett.

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Robert Murat talking to David Jones, Daily Mail, 02 June 2007

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