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Answers to 4 FOI Questions - the rest were not answered Mm11

Answers to 4 FOI Questions - the rest were not answered Regist10

Answers to 4 FOI Questions - the rest were not answered

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Answers to 4 FOI Questions - the rest were not answered Empty Answers to 4 FOI Questions - the rest were not answered

Post by Tony Bennett on 13.09.10 15:29

A brief summary of responses received today from the Home Office by those of us who asked the 12 FOI questions back in March.

The full reply is on a pdf. which I can't upload and in any event is long, running to 5 pages in all.

In summary, the first four questions have been answered in the following terms:

1. Dr Gerald and Dr Kate McCann met with Home Office Minister Alan Johnson on an undisclosed date in October 2009.

2. Also present at that meeting were the following:

a) Two member's of staff from 'The Minister's Private Office' and

b) one 'Home Official Official.

3. The Home Office did not disclose one way or the other whether the McCanns were accompanied or represented by anyone at this meeting.

4. The Home Office say that there were no other meetings between:

a) The McCanns, the Home Office Minister and/or any Home Office staff, or

b) Any representatives of the McCanns and the Minister and any Home Office staff...

...between the October 2009 meeting and the date of my letter, viz. 19 March 2010.


The answers to all the other questions (Nos. 5 to 12 below) have been denied, under one or more of the following provisions:

1. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 Sections 31(1) (a) and 31(1)(b)
2. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 Section 36(2) (b)(i) and 36(2)(b)(ii)
3. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 Section 40 (2)
4. The Data Protection Act.


In broad terms, these sections cover:

a) information relating to a past or current police investigation, the majority of which is normally exempt from disclosure,
b) information regarded as 'not in the public interest' to disclose, and
c) personal information relating to a living person.

There is also a reference to the McCanns' expectation that their meeting with the Home Secretary would be 'private'.

The letter concludes, as is required by law, a list of 'considerations in favour of disclosure' and equally a list of 'considerations against disclosure. As you'll see when the full letter is disclosed, the arguments for and against disclosure of information are very finely balanced.

I will publish the full response here wehn I can although several others have got identical replies and someone more technically-minded will almost certainly beat me to it.

The letter outlines the procedure for this decision to be reviewed. as it took 6 months bar 6 days to get a reply, I am not sure how long that procedure will take. Specific reasons under the FOI Act have to be given for seeking a review.

If the review still does not produce a satisfactory reply, the applicant for information has the right to apply to the Information Commissioner, based in Wilmslow, Cheshire.

Two further points.

The 16 additional questions I asked on 17 and 22 June and 13 July have not yet even been given a case reference number, let alone answered.

Finally, why did it take close on 6 months to dislcose just this extremely limited information?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

THE 12 FOI ACT QUESTIONS TO THE HOME OFFICE ASKED ON 19 MARCH 2010:

1. On what date or dates has the Home Secretary Alan Johnson had meetings with one or both of the McCanns?

2. Who else was present at these meetings: in particular, was any lawyer or othert adviser for the McCanns present?

3. On what dates did meetings take place between one or both of the McCanns and staff of the Home Office?

4. Please identify all the staff who met with the McCanns and again identify whether the McCanns had legal or other representatives with them.

5. On what date did the McCanns first approach the Home Office asking for a review or re-investigation by a British police force into Madeleine’s disappearance?

6. Is the Home Office carrying out what the Daily Telegraph called ‘a scoping exercise’ to evaluate what form any review or re-investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance may take’ and, if so, on what date did that scoping exercise
commence?

7. Why, according to the press, was Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Mr Jim Gamble, given the role of advising the Home Office as to which police force should carry out any review or re-investigation?

8. On what date did the Home Secretary ask Mr Gamble to perform this role?

9. On what date did Mr Gamble make his recommendation?

10. Did he, as reported, recommend West Yorkshire Police to carry out a review or re-investigation?

11. Has West Yorkshire Police, as reported, been asked to carry out a review or re-investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann?

12. If so, what is the brief or remit that the Home Office has given to West Yorkshire Police?
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Post by Autumn on 13.09.10 16:50

Thanks for posting up that rather dismissive response to your questions, Tony. A comment I came across on Missing Madeleine forum sums it up quite well.

T4two Today at 16:25

Keela wrote:
Has anyone had the same thought as me that the Freedom of Information Act should really have been called the NonFreedom of Information Act or even the Freedom of Non-Information act. I thought that the whole point of it was that you could get answers to questions. All they seem to do is put another layer in the brick wall.


Keela

Think you got it in one - we thought they meant our freedom, but what they really meant was their freedom to do as they please.


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Post by Jill Havern on 13.09.10 16:56

It is rather like a no-quibble guarantee which is only useful if you don't quibble.

Or a complaints procedure that is only useful if you don't complain.
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Post by kangdang on 13.09.10 18:40

That's my take to JKH

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Post by aiyoyo on 14.09.10 11:55

Why did they have to differentiate Ministry’s Pte Office and Home Official? Are they trying to obfuscate matter?
Isnt seeing the mccanns simply an official meeting with members of the public? Why not simply state Home Minister Alan Johnson together with two staff (or fellow colleagues) attended at the meeting?
They didnt even have the courtesy to give the date? Geez, why act so secretive, what harm can be done in revealing a date of meeting?
Has anyone else noticed? If HO’s reply is to be taken at face value, it would mean the mccanns had not met with Theresa May as they claimed. All the bullocks about having met with Theresa May and a review, going even to the extent of naming police force selected to do the review are but lies lies LIES meant to mislead the public.
I wonder why the HO didn’t stop their spins and misinformation. All they’d to do is put out a simple statement to say investigation is ongoing (as they led us to believe in their reply), then the mccanns will have no choice but to shut their gob and can no longer sprout nonsense that no one is looking for MBM.
What’s the whole point of Freedom of Information Act when plenty lame excuses are given to circumvent the need to reply. Dragging their feet and taking their own sweet time over the need to reply only to churn out this highly inadequate answers is so patronising. At this rate, I suppose going to the commissioner is an sure eventuality of time.


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Post by Tony Bennett on 14.09.10 20:47

@aiyoyo wrote: Why did they have to differentiate Ministry’s Pte Office and Home Official? Are they trying to obfuscate matters?

REPLY: NO, in fact that is perhaps the most interesting fact to emerge so far from these qiuestions (apart from the massive dealy itself). There has been much debate raging for the past 13 years about how Labour has vastly increased its numbers of private officials and advisers who are answerable to the Minister personally and are often party apparatchiks. Home Office officials, by contrast, are civil servants who traditionally must be neutral in the advice they give and in the instructions they take. It is very significant that the Minister chose to have two of his close party advisers with him and only one civil servant.

They didn't even have the courtesy to give the date...why act so secretive, what harm can be done in revealing a date of meeting?

REPLY: That's a good point and one we'll be following up.

Has anyone else noticed? If HO’s reply is to be taken at face value, it would mean the McCanns had not met with Theresa May as they claimed.

REPLY: NO, aiyoyo, that's not correct. The Home Office response only covered events up to the date of my question, i.e. 19 March 2010. I already have a further question in to the Home Office about the meeting with Theresa May.

What’s the whole point of the Freedom of Information Act when plenty of lame excuses are given to circumvent the need to reply. Dragging their feet and taking their own sweet time over the need to reply only to churn out this highly inadequate answers is so patronising...

REPLY: They do all that much much better in the U.S.
.


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Post by aiyoyo on 15.09.10 5:23

@Tony Bennett wrote:
3. The Home Office did not disclose one way or the other whether the McCanns were accompanied or represented by anyone at this meeting.

The fact they they revealed how many from their side met with mccanns yet didnt disclose how many from the mccanns side may mean that those were the collective number of people at that meeting; and that no one else came with the mccanns.


The answers to all the other questions (Nos. 5 to 12 below) have been denied, under one or more of the following provisions:

1. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 Sections 31(1) (a) and 31(1)(b)
2. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 Section 36(2) (b)(i) and 36(2)(b)(ii)
3. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 Section 40 (2)
4. The Data Protection Act.


Looking at the main clause numbers accompanied by so many indexing in brackets just goes to show so many small prints sub sub clauses hidden among main and sub clauses which render the FOI Act useless for the public which it was intended for.

In broad terms, these sections cover:

a) information relating to a past or current police investigation, the majority of which is normally exempt from disclosure,
b) information regarded as 'not in the public interest' to disclose, and
c) personal information relating to a living person.

a) Citing the reason as they did (past and current investigation) still on files is v. convenient and perfect excuse to avoid giving reply.

b) Claiming 'Not in the public interest to know' is quite something?
Given the fact that they'd received questioning letters from members of public, it is a good indication public deem it in their interest to know. what gives HO the right to determine for the public what the public should or should not know. Isn't UK a free and democratic country? And isnt that what the FOI Act is all about so that Government cannot conveniently sweep everything under the carpet to suit themselves; so that they can't hide behind their office or keep the public in the dark.

c) living person? who? MBM? So does it mean the HO still consider her a 'living person'.
Is that objective considering the police files stating otherwise. Surely the HO knows at least that bit?
As for personal information, I take that to mean Madeleine's. Isnt investigation about gathering as much personal information relating to the victim as possible in order to progress? And if that is denied to investigators for no good or valid reason then the public is within its right to ask why and expect answers?



There is also a reference to the McCanns' expectation that their meeting with the Home Secretary would be 'private'.

You could perhaps ask : If it was supposed to be private why did they (mccanns) announced it so PUBLICLY in the press? The mccanns cant have it both ways.

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Answers to 4 FOI Questions - the rest were not answered Empty Another reply to aiyoyo

Post by Tony Bennett on 15.09.10 8:24

@aiyoyo wrote:The fact they they revealed how many from their side met with McCanns yet didn't disclose how many from the McCanns' side may mean that those were the collective number of people at that meeting; and that no one else came with the McCanns.

REPLY: The Home Office has not answered that question one way or another. I trhink it more than likely that the McCanns took a lawyer or other adviser (ir both) to accompany them to that October 2009 meeting.

Looking at the main clause numbers accompanied by so many indexing in brackets just goes to show so many small prints sub sub clauses hidden among main and sub clauses which render the FOI Act useless for the public which it was intended for.

REPLY: Not quite. These sections are important ones covering the general confidentiality that surrounds past or ongoing police investigations, and the so-called 'public interest'

a) Citing the reason as they did (past and current investigation) still on files is v. convenient and perfect excuse to avoid giving reply.

REPLY: The answers to most of my questions, if not all, would not in any way prejudice any investigation, they are questions about matters that SURROUND the current so-called investigation and as such I believe I should have answers to them. The main reason I believe that they haven't answered them is because they would embarrass the government and the McCanns.

Claiming 'Not in the public interest to know' is quite something? Given the fact that they'd received questioning letters from members of public, it is a good indication that the public deem it in their interest to know. What gives HO the right to determine for the public what the public should or should not know? Isn't the UK a free and democratic country? And isn't that what the FOI Act is all about? - so that Government cannot conveniently sweep everything under the carpet to suit themselves; so that they can't hide behind their office or keep the public in the dark?

REPLY: It is I believe overall in the public interest not to reveal, for example, matters confidential to a past or current police investigation. To make these public for example might deter potential witnesses from coming forward. But as I say my questions were not about such confidential matters. And as I said previously, in the U.S. the public has much much greater access to government information, reducing the scope for the government to cover things up. The U.S. FOI Act is much more helpful tp the probing public and the courts are vigilant in enforcing it.

Living person? Who? MBM? So does it mean the HO still consider her a 'living person'? Is that objective considering the police files stating otherwise?

REPLY: NO. They mean Dr Gerald and Dr Kate McCann.

As for personal information, I take that to mean Madeleine's.

REPLY: I think they mean Madeleine, and the McCanns - and may be others.

Tony Bennett wrote: "There is also a reference to the McCanns' expectation that their meeting with the Home Secretary would be 'private'." You could perhaps ask : If it was supposed to be private why did they (McCanns) announce it so PUBLICLY in the press? The McCanns can't have it both ways.

REPLY: I can't really ask the Home Office this, but in terms of the public interest etc., I can certainly point this out in terms of the balance of the public interest lying in my questions being answered, rather than refused. It is analagous to those celebrities who demand constant media exposure, perhaps endorse products and get sponsorship, wetc. because they are in the public eye, and then complain when the News of the World runs an expose of things they would rather keep hidden.

There is another aspect of the 'public interest' in this case, namely that tens of thousands gave money to the McCanns.
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Post by aiyoyo on 15.09.10 12:08

@Tony Bennett wrote:
@aiyoyo wrote:

REPLY: The Home Office has not answered that question one way or another. I trhink it more than likely that the McCanns took a lawyer or other adviser (ir both) to accompany them to that October 2009 meeting.

As for possible person accompanying mccanns, I thought about that as well, then decided against it reasoning that should they have brought say for example CM along, wouldn't that be considered instrusive. Since when spokesperson has the right to be intimately involved in the investigation aspect of things that would justify his presence at that kind of meeting?
Surely that is only perogative of the parents.

Same logic applies were they to bring along lawyer. It would be illogical to bring legal mind for that sort of meeting. What has legal aspects got to do with the purpose of mccanns meeting, which obstenstiously was to ask about investigation isnt it? How can mccanns incriminate themselves in a meeting with the HO? Not forgetting cost involved in bringing along a lawyer.

Anyway imo had the mccanns brought along someone peripheral to that sort of meeting, it would mean overstepping the boundary, and peripheral presence could be construed as intrusive and meddling into investigation aspects, unless the purpose of the meeting was more than meet the eyes. If that being the case, then revealing attendants (if any) from mccanns side would be confirming people's suspicions that quite a selected fews are in the know or privileged to info kept in HO office dungeon.




a) Citing the reason as they did (past and current investigation) still on files is v. convenient and perfect excuse to avoid giving reply.

REPLY: The answers to most of my questions, if not all, would not in any way prejudice any investigation, they are questions about matters that SURROUND the current so-called investigation and as such I believe I should have answers to them. The main reason I believe that they haven't answered them is because they would embarrass the government and the McCanns.



Claiming 'Not in the public interest to know' is quite something? Given the fact that they'd received questioning letters from members of public, it is a good indication that the public deem it in their interest to know. What gives HO the right to determine for the public what the public should or should not know? Isn't the UK a free and democratic country? And isn't that what the FOI Act is all about? - so that Government cannot conveniently sweep everything under the carpet to suit themselves; so that they can't hide behind their office or keep the public in the dark?

REPLY: It is I believe overall in the public interest not to reveal, for example, matters confidential to a past or current police investigation. To make these public for example might deter potential witnesses from coming forward. But as I say my questions were not about such confidential matters. And as I said previously, in the U.S. the public has much much greater access to government information, reducing the scope for the government to cover things up. The U.S. FOI Act is much more helpful tp the probing public and the courts are vigilant in enforcing it.

Precisely my point, they're covering their arse by citing 'investigation' - its a perfectly convenient excuse for them to use - cant get better than that!
But the pertinent point is, how can answers to some of your simple questions like date of meetings and such likes prejudice ongoing investigation (if true) or future trial for that matters.
Citing public interest and not prejudicing an investigation, or future trial for that matter,are all very well, but taking us for the fools that we cannot differentiate the importance of these things is taking the piss. People understand certain things are not in the public interest to reveal, but blanketing everything as not for reveal, even if the info will not prejudice investigation is quite something else. There have to be reasons for their reluctance and suggests that the chinese whispers have leg to stand on all along.




REPLY: I think they mean Madeleine, and the McCanns - and may be others.

But they stated ' personal information relating to a living person...'


Tony Bennett wrote: "There is also a reference to the McCanns' expectation that their meeting with the Home Secretary would be 'private'." You could perhaps ask : If it was supposed to be private why did they (McCanns) announce it so PUBLICLY in the press? The McCanns can't have it both ways.

REPLY: I can't really ask the Home Office this, but in terms of the public interest etc., I can certainly point this out in terms of the balance of the public interest lying in my questions being answered, rather than refused. It is analagous to those celebrities who demand constant media exposure, perhaps endorse products and get sponsorship, wetc. because they are in the public eye, and then complain when the News of the World runs an expose of things they would rather keep hidden.

There is another aspect of the 'public interest' in this case, namely that tens of thousands gave money to the McCanns.


It's true, after all they must be aware that the mccanns are spinning in the press about their meeting with HO. If those meetings (with several HS) were supposed to be private and confidential then it should be observed by both parties. Mccanns announcing it in public is deliberate attempt to mislead the public and in fairness there should be a balance measure.

Ah, the fund - the heart of the matter is precisely why the mccanns had to maintain their lies.
They'd better hoped their luck holds forever.
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Answers to 4 FOI Questions - the rest were not answered Empty The reply from the Home Office

Post by sharonl on 16.09.10 21:04

Our Ref: 14425

09 September, 2010

Dear Ms Lawrence

Thank you for your e-mail of 21 March, 2010 in which you ask for the following
information

1. On what date or dates has the Home Secretary Alan Johnson had meetings
with one or both of the McCanns?

2. Who else was present at these meetings: in particular, was any lawyer or other
adviser for the McCanns present?

3. On what dates did meetings take place between one or both of the McCanns
and staff of the Home Office?

4. Please identify all the staff who met with the McCanns and again identify
whether the McCanns had legal or other representatives with them.

5. On what date did the McCanns first approach the Home Office asking for a
review or re-investigation by a British police force into Madeleine’s
disappearance?

6. Is the Home Office carrying out what the Daily Telegraph called ‘a scoping
exercise’ to evaluate what form any review or re-investigation into Madeleine’s
disappearance may take’ and, if so, on what date did that scooping exercise
commence?

7. Why, according to the press, was Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and
Online Protection Centre, Mr Jim Gamble, given the role of advising the Home
Office as to which police force should carry out any review or re-investigation?

8. On what date did the Home Secretary ask Mr Gamble to perform this role?

9. On what date did Mr Gamble make his recommendation?

10. Did he, as reported, recommend West Yorkshire Police to carry out a review or
re-investigation?

11. Has West Yorkshire Police, as reported, been asked to carry out a review or
re-investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann?

12. If so, what is the brief or remit that the Home Office has given to West
Yorkshire Police?

Your request has been handled as a request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (FOI) and we can now provide you with a substantive
response to your request.

I can confirm that the then Home Secretary met Mr and Mrs McCann in October
2009. Also present were two members of the Minister’s Private Office and a
Home Office Official. There were no subsequent meetings between Home Office
Ministers or Home Office officials and Mr and Mrs McCann or any representative
acting on their behalf, between then and the date of your letter.

I confirm that the Home Office holds some information relevant to remaining parts
of your request but that, other than the information provided above, we consider
that information to be exempt from disclosure under sections 31(1)(a) and (b),
s.40(2) and s36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) of the Act.

Furthermore, we neither confirm nor deny that we hold any further information by
virtue of Section 23(5) - information relating to an organisation listed in Section
23(3) of the Act. Section 23 confers an absolute exemption from our duty under
section 1(1)(a) of the Act and does not require any further consideration. This
response should not be taken as conclusive evidence that the information you
have requested is or is not held by the Home Office.

The general policy of the Home Office is not to disclose to a third party, personal
information about another person. Section 40(2) of the FOI relates to the handling
of personal information under the Data Protection Act. The Home Office has
obligations under that Act, and in law generally, to protect the personal data that it
holds. Mr and Mrs McCann would have had a legitimate expectation that any
meeting with the Home Secretary was a private meeting. We have therefore,
concluded that such information as you have requested which relates to Mr and
Mrs McCann’s participation in the meeting and any views or opinions expressed, is
exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) of the FOI, on the grounds that the
such disclosure would breach the first Data Protection Principle in that it would
constitute unfair processing of their personal data. The same exemption applies in
relation to the details of Home Office officials present at the meeting. Section
40(2) is an absolute exemption and does not require any further consideration.
Section 31(1)(a) provides that information is exempt if its disclosure would or
would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime, and section
31(1)(b) if it would potentially prejudice the apprehension or prosecution of
offenders, and (in both cases) the public interest falls in favour of applying the
exemption.

Sections 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) apply to information which, in the reasonable opinion of
a qualified person, would if disclosed, be likely to inhibit the free and frank
provision of advice, or the free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of
deliberation. Section 36 is also subject to the supporting arguments of a public
interest test.

Consideration of the public interest test in relation to these elements of the Act is
detailed in Annex A.

If you are dissatisfied with this response you may request an independent internal
review of our handling of your request by submitting a complaint, within two
months, to the address below, quoting the reference number at the top of this
letter:

Information Access Team
Home Office
Ground Floor, Seacole Building
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

Alternatively you can e-mail: foirequests@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
If you ask for an internal review, it would be helpful if you could say why you are
dissatisfied with the response. As part of any internal review the Department's
handling of your information request will be reassessed by staff who were not
involved in providing you with this response. If you remain dissatisfied after this
internal review, you would have a right of complaint to the Information
Commissioner as established by section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act.
I apologise for the very long delay in replying to your request owing to the need to
apply and fully consider the public interest test in this case.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Lister

Information Access Consultant
On behalf of the Home Office Police Powers and Protection Unit (PPPU)

ANNEX A

PUBLIC INTEREST CONSIDERATIONS
Except where otherwise stated in the covering letter we consider the information
requested to be exempt from disclosure under section 31(1)(a) and (b), and
section 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.
Section 31(1)(a) provides that information is exempt if its disclosure would
prejudice the prevention or detection of crime and subsection (1)(b) provides that
information is exempt if its disclosure would or would be likely to prejudice the
apprehension or prosecution of offenders. Since this case remains unresolved,
disclosure of information that might be of assistance to anyone involved in the
disappearance of Madeleine McCann, disclose law enforcement tactics or lines of
enquiry or potentially prejudice the ability to pursue a prosecution would be
prejudicial to such law enforcement activities.

Section 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) provides that information is exempt from disclosure if in
the reasonable opinion of a qualified person such disclosure would be likely to
inhibit the free and frank provision of advice, or the free and frank exchange of
views for the purpose of deliberation. In this case the qualified person is the
Attorney General. It is a central tenet of public administration that ministers and
officials should be able to exchange views and advice freely in the interests of
devising policies and reaching sound decisions. Anything likely to limit or interfere
with the ability or willingness of those involved to conduct business in this way
would be detrimental to the good conduct of public affairs.

All three of these exemption provisions confer a qualified exemption which
requires the supporting arguments and consideration of a Public Interest Test
(PIT).

The Public Interest Test
This test is used to balance the public interest in disclosure against the public
interest in favour of withholding the information, or the considerations for and
against the requirement to say whether the information requested is held or not.
We must carry out a public interest test where we are considering using any of the
qualified exemptions in response to a request for information.

The ‘public interest’ is not the same as what interests the public. In carrying out a
PIT we consider the greater good or benefit to the community as a whole if the
information is released or not. The ‘right to know’ must be balanced against the
need to enable effective government and to serve the best interests of the public.
The FOI Act is ‘applicant blind’. This means that we cannot, and do not, ask about
the motives of anyone who asks for information. In providing a response to one
person, we are expressing a willingness to provide the same response to anyone,
including those who might represent a threat to the UK.

Considerations in favour of disclosing the information
With regard to Section 31(1)(a) and (b), there is a significant and ongoing public
interest in the fate of Madeleine McCann and by extension to activity by any
individuals or organisations who might be involved in considering or investigating
the circumstances of her disappearance. There are potential benefits in keeping
the case in the public domain in general since information provided as a
consequence by a member (or members) of the public may be instrumental in
generating new lines of enquiry. There may for similar reasons be specific
advantage in keeping the public informed as to significant ongoing developments
and law enforcement activity since this may trigger fresh recollections and new
information.

More generally, it is important to maintain public confidence in our law
enforcement agencies. Providing information about steps that have been, or may
be, taken in a high profile investigation might serve to keep the public better
informed about the work of the police and other law enforcement agencies and
thereby provide reassurance as to the policies or actions being adopted. Such
steps would also serve to correct any mistaken or misleading reporting in the
media or other sources, and thereby provide more accurate information against
which the public might reach judgements about official actions.

With regard to Section 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii), in general, there is a legitimate public
interest in knowing how issues of public interest are considered and decisions
reached by ministers and what advice may be available to, or provided to them, to
assist with that. Greater transparency in the mechanics of government, and
consideration and decision making processes may assist in better informing the
public about such issues and thereby raise public confidence in general
governance issues. Such arguments would also apply to this particular case given
the very high degree of public interest in the fate of Madeleine McCann.
Considerations in favour withholding the information

With regard to Section 31(1)(a) and (b) some of the same considerations as
mentioned above also weigh against disclosure. This is a high profile case which
has generated wide spread media reporting and speculation, not only in this
country, but internationally.

The questions asked relate to potential police tasking and operational decisions in
what remains an ongoing missing person case. Making public details of what
actions or activities law enforcement agencies may have taken or may consider
taking in future would effectively mean operational policing decisions being played
out in public and provide an ongoing commentary on progress or lack thereof. If
widely reported, this in turn would alert any individual involved in Madeleine’s
disappearance to potential lines of investigation, thereby compromising such
activity. In some circumstances it could also hamper communication between law
enforcement agencies, or compromise planned activity or enquiries by various law
enforcement agencies which might have an interest or role in this case either in
this country or abroad. Publicity may also prejudice potential future prosecutions.
With regard to Section 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) similar arguments apply. It is not in the
public interest to compromise the ability of Ministers or other officials to discuss,
speculate, form opinions, and explore options in private. Particularly in complex or
sensitive cases, such considerations should be capable of being as full and frank
as possible without the prospect that they might be open to public scrutiny,
speculation or criticism, especially where they are exploratory in nature. The
prospect that personal comments, questions, opinion or ideas could be made
public would be likely to hinder the effective conduct of public affairs by inhibiting
those whose views were sought, thereby stifling free discussion and debate and
the offering of a full range of impartial advice or options for action. Such interests
are heightened where they touch on sensitive matters including individuals and
personal circumstances.

We conclude therefore that, while there remains a strong and legitimate public
interest in this case and in the steps being taken to find Madeleine McCann,
revealing specific or speculative details of potential law enforcement activity in
relation to the case, or details of governmental or departmental involvement in its
consideration, would be prejudicial to its handling. The balance of the public
interest therefore lies in withholding the information.

August 2010

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Post by aiyoyo on 17.09.10 0:50

Thanks SharonL for that.

I noted Data Protection Act under 'Section 40(2) is an absolute exemption and does not require any further consideration.' is applied very heavily by HO.

Other than the selective few law & by-laws they listed, maybe you should ask for copy of the complete Constitution booklet plus copy of all Rules and By-laws relating to FOI Act.

That way, one can determine whether clauses existed therein that state the circumstances under which they are obliged to provide the answers, whether there are sub clauses that render their cited sub clauses ineffective under certain circumstances. I'm thinking there must be counter clauses to cover all eventualities.
Having those in hands, would also help one to determine whether HO liberal application of the sub clauses conform to the essence of the FOI Act; and whether their reply demonstrates their commitment to comply with the FOI Act in its proper manner as befitting the very purpose of the provisions of the FOI Act in the first place; and that their throwing sub clauses at public members questions are not just in order to protect their interest or interest of selected few people for reasons known only to them, and that this act of protection of their is not in balance to the public interest and public right to know.

Surely, FOI Act was legislated to regulate authorities so that there are transparency and accountability where the government authorities are concerned. It is put in place to protect the public interest so that the power-of-the-day cannot abuse their position and people's trust by refusing to be answerable or accountable for their actions to the very people who elected them in term and paid them out of their tax monies.

I noted the questions posed were mainly dates and confirmation of certain things already published in the mainstream, so how can answers to those possibly prejudice the investigation concerned, when the people behind leaking the info to the press are the very people in communication with HO behind closed doors.

If the provisions of answer to those questions pose prejudice risk to individuals as well as case as claimed by HO, then the HO should answer why they didnt stop the mccanns or the press from printing and circulating those info? Their claim of 'risk of prejudice to individuals and case in question' should apply equally to all. Rightfully that should apply also to team mccanns and press as well, the latterly named should not be allowed to print as they did without having first confirming with HO as to the veracity of the info, otherwise HO argument fall flat on its face. If the stories pertaining to mccanns meeting with various HS, CEOP involvement, and Review, police force chosen et al ( all contentious issues in MF questions) had been verified first with HO before going circulation, then how can they refused to answer what they already confirmed to the Press. On the other hand, if the stories were printed without verification from HO, then in not countering it, the HO is knowingly allowing the Press to mislead the Public as they cannot claim they are unaware of those articles in the press.

How can they deem it is not in the public interest for them to provide answers to what was already speculated in the mainstream. The arguments they used are but their biased and onesided interest protection that does not seek to redress the imbalance perpetrated by the press nor have they having adopted a balanced view bearing the balance in the public interest to know in mind at all. In fact their arguments used are yet more compounded the 'suppression of information' to the public which is at the very heart of the matter where this case is concerned.
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Post by aiyoyo on 17.09.10 2:06

Section 31(1)(a) provides that information is exempt if its disclosure would or
would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime, and section.

31(1)(b) if it would potentially prejudice the apprehension or prosecution of
offenders, and (in both cases) the public interest falls in favour of applying the
exemption.

Providing both actually cancels one from the other side; and doesnt give an indication which way inclined they think the providing of answers might contravene which section? It such's a playsafe sureproof measure to cover their backside and they'd answered nothing in effect.
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Answers to 4 FOI Questions - the rest were not answered Empty Section 40(2) FOI Act

Post by Tony Bennett on 17.09.10 8:59

Just on the subject of Section 40 of the FOI Act, with reference to 'personal data', here is a guidance note by the Information Commissioner's Office, Wilmslow, on that section - long, but worth a look:

http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/library/freedom_of_information/detailed_specialist_guides/personal_information.pdf

I am satisifed by the way that I've just been given the job title/status of the Home Office officials present, I do not need to press for their actual names.

I am not sure if Section 40(2) or any other section of the Freedom of Information Act or Data Protection Act prevents me from knowing whether the McCanns had others with them at that October 2009 meeting with Alan Johnson, as I suspect they must have had. I may press the Home Office on that point.
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Post by hentie on 17.09.10 11:47

Just to say I had same response as Sharoni. roll
I'll be generously good hearted...and not say what I think wtf
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Post by aiyoyo on 17.09.10 11:59

@Tony Bennett wrote:Just on the subject of Section 40 of the FOI Act, with reference to 'personal data', here is a guidance note by the Information Commissioner's Office, Wilmslow, on that section - long, but worth a look:

http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/library/freedom_of_information/detailed_specialist_guides/personal_information.pdf

I am satisifed by the way that I've just been given the job title/status of the Home Office officials present, I do not need to press for their actual names.

I am not sure if Section 40(2) or any other section of the Freedom of Information Act or Data Protection Act prevents me from knowing whether the McCanns had others with them at that October 2009 meeting with Alan Johnson, as I suspect they must have had. I may press the Home Office on that point.

Surely the Data Protection Act works both way, if they'd divulged by giving job title of people from their side who were present without naming them, surely they could also answer whether the mccanns were represented by using the same method of reply. In the same manner, it suffice to give the profession of the person/s representing or attended with mccanns in the general manner without providing specific names if they want to be awkward or sticky about providing names.

That way, there can be no contravention of the DPA if no specifics is named, so I dont see how they can refused to answer that. Besides, I dont see why naming attendees should be protected under DPA where FOI questions are concerned, not as if people are asking for agenda/s of meeting or what were discussed.
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Post by Judge Mental on 17.09.10 13:49

big grin

Perhaps there are few people left who would wish to be named or linked with the McCanns, Kevin Halligen, Metodo 3 etc.? big grin

Perhaps they are becoming aware that there will eventually be a risk to national security because of the obfuscation of the previous governments, and that they do not want to be seen to have had any part in it.

This may be a job for the European court to decide eventually. We seem to have a Trafigura incident on our hands here.
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Answers to 4 FOI Questions - the rest were not answered Empty 'Information Commissioner warns Home Secretary over 6-month delay in answering Madeleine Foundation questions about Madeleine'.

Post by sharonl on 22.09.10 23:24

http://www.madeleinefoundation.org.uk/PDFs/Information%20officer.pdf

Dear Mr Lister

As you are aware, the ICO has received a complaint from Mr Bennett. March 2010, On 19 Mr Bennett rnade a request for iniormation to ih* nore office. The Home office failed to provide a substantive response for severat rnonths. you
have corrfirmed that a response has now been issued anO piovided a copy to this office today which is appreciated.
As you will be aware, a public authority in receipt of such a request has a duty to deal with them promptly and, in any event, within zo wor[inj oays. There are some exceptions, particularly where additional time is requir|d to consider the public interest in disclosing exempt information. However, the Home office has taken over four morrths to consider the pubtic interest in ihis case and provide this response to Mr Bennett.

The Commissioner recognises that in this particular instance you have
acknowledged and apologised for the breach and he does not .onsider, therefore, that there is any strong public interest in issuing a decision notice.

He does, however, draw your attention to his published guidance on this matter (http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/library/freedom of information/detailed sprecialist guides/awareness guidance 11 - time for compliance.pdf)

You will appreciate that in the event of other, simirar commissioner compraints, the may consider taking enrorcement action under s.52 0f the Act,

I have copied this letter to the requester.
Yours sincerely

'Amanda Latimer
Senior Complaints Officer

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Post by Autumn on 23.09.10 0:17

I am very pleased that a letter of warning has been sent to The Home Secretary regarding this matter and hope Tony won't have to wait much longer for a response to the reasonable and straightforward questions he submitted to The Home Office 6 months ago. thumbsup
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Post by aiyoyo on 23.09.10 3:06

Extract
"You will appreciate that in the event of other, simirar commissioner compraints, the may consider taking enrorcement action under s.52 0f the Act,"

Good to know that the ICO is taking seriously the Home Office breach of the FOI Act.

Where was that letter dated?

There is no reason at all for HO to delay the answer nor refuse to answer the questions.
Citing excuse of 'against public interest' or 'prejudicial reason' is lame and being evasive, defeating the very purpose of FOI act.
Besides, the information MF sought are general enough like dates and names, with some of them being confirmation of press articles pertaining to mccanns meetings with HS, rumoured Police Review, extent of CEOP involvement et al which incidentally were already reported by the mainstream press anyway, so how can HO 'not in public interest to know' argument has any leg to stand on?





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