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New HOME OFFICE FOIAct request, 24 Apr 2018: (A) Procedures for approving grants to Operation Grange (B) Costs to Portugal of helping Operation Grange

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New HOME OFFICE FOIAct request, 24 Apr 2018: (A) Procedures for approving grants to Operation Grange (B) Costs to Portugal of helping Operation Grange

Post by Tony Bennett on 24.04.18 19:50

I've sent this request in today with a longish contextual background to my request:

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Dear Home Office,

My request is for information about the cost of Operation Grange and the process of approving grants for Operation Grange to continue.

By way of context for my questions, the Portuguese Police declared three persons formal suspects as responsible for the disappearance of Madeleine McCann: Robert Murat, Dr Gerald Mcann and Dr Kate McCann. In July 2008 the Portuguese Attorney-General archived the case, not having identified sufficient evidence to prosecute anyone either for the offence of abduction or of hiding a body.

On 12 May 2011 the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, ordered the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, to set up a Review, namely Operation Grange, into Madeleine’s disappearance. This review later became a formal Investigation.

On 14 October 2013 the BBC in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police transmitted a programme which identified a man said to have seen by an Irish family on the night Madeleine was reported missing, as the Met Police’s chief suspect. This was over six years and five months after the original claimed sighting. The Met Police has confirmed in relation to a recent FOIAct request that they are no longer actively searching for this much-heralded suspect but decline to say either whether he had been identified or eliminated from their enquiries. It is now 4½ years since that programme.

The Met Police did not initially reveal the remit of their review but in response to a number of FOIAct requests DCS Hamish Campbell of the Met Police revealed that the remit was “to investigate the abduction as though it happened in the UK”. This limited remit ruled out from the beginning any other reason for Madeleine’s disappearance.

More recently, former Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton of the Met Police disclosed publicly that an unnamed ‘very senior Met Police officer’ had told him not to get involved with the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance. The Daily Mail (2 May 2017) reported on an interview Sutton had given to SKY News as follows:

“Speaking to Martin Brunt on SKY News, he said: ‘I did receive a call [in 2010] from a very senior Met Police officer who knew me and said it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to head the investigation on the basis that I wouldn’t be happy conducting an investigation being told where I could go and where I couldn’t go, the things I could investigate and the things I couldn’t’. Asked to clarify what he meant, he added: ‘'The Scotland Yard investigation was going to be very narrowly focused and that focus would be away from any suspicion of wrongdoing on the part of the McCanns or their Tapas 7 friends’.”

More recently, the Home Office has again handed extra cash to Operation Grange to carry on its investigations, despite it being 11 years since Madeleine was reported missing and seven years since it was set up. Claims have been made years ago by Operation Grange that they were ‘just following up one final lead’, yet there has never been any indication overt these seven years that it is even one step nearer solving the mystery of her disappearance.

There have been increased concerns from public figures and from the public about the continuing expenditure on Operation Grange when there appears to be no end in sight. These concerns have been highlighted by revelations over the years about high level government staff and the security services having been highly involved in (a) allegedly obstructing the Portuguese Police and (b) with the McCanns’ own private investigations.

It is on the record that officers from MI5 were dispatched to Portugal immediately Madeleine was reported missing.   As Dr Kate It is also on  the record that when Martin Grime, the top British dog handler  who took his two cadaver dogs to Portugal on the suggestion of NPIS officer Mark Harrison, was returning via Faro Airport, Portugal, after his investigations were concluded, he was intercepted by an MI5 officer who is understood to have debriefed him. McCann wrote in her book, ‘madeleine’ (page 259), “A Special Branch Officer drove us to Rothley” - from East Midlands Airport, on the day they flew back from Portugal, shortly after being declared suspects in their daughter’s disappearance.

Furthermore, one of the McCanns’ leading private investigators [name withheld], the one who drew up the controversial efits revealed to the public for the first time in2013, is on the record as having been the former Head of Covert Intelligence for MI5. Many more details of security services involvement could be given, but I should mention that suspicions that the government might be covering up matters relating to Madeleine’s disappearance were heightened when, in 2008 & 2009, Leicestershire Police, and again in 2011, the Met Police, refused to answer FOIAct questions on grounds of ‘national security’.

I quote Daily Mirror journalist Jon Clement’s article in February 2009 as one such example: 

"A few days ago I received an interesting letter from Leicestershire police about the Madeleine McCann investigation. I had asked them, in July [2008], if they had got any warrants (under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) to use surveillance powers - such as phone tapping and email interception on behalf of the Portuguese police. The force initially stalled saying it needed to ‘consult other Agencies’ before replying. After a six month delay, Leicestershire has now claimed it is exempt from Freedom of Information laws in this case due to ‘national security’. I've put in dozens of FOI requests to police forces over the years, some you get and some you don't but ‘national security’ is a new one on me. To make matters even murkier, Leicestershire claimed a second exemption because the information I requested could relate to ‘the Security bodies’. A quick look at the FOI Act reveals ‘Security bodies’ are MI5, MI6, GCHQ (pictured above), special forces (such as the SAS) and the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Hmm. Despite claiming these exemptions, Leicestershire seem at pains to neither confirm nor deny they hold any information relevant to my request anyway. Check out (slowly I suggest) the tortuous conclusion to the three page letter explaining their stance. It is our decision that the Leicestershire Constabulary must maintain a position of neither confirming nor denying that any relevant information is held and that this response, which neither confirms nor denies that information is held, should not be taken as conclusive evidence that the information you have requested exists or does not exist".     
   
The British public has funded the Madeleine McCann investigation to the tune of £15 million or more (I include the cost of Leicestershire police’s investigation and other police costs apart from those of the Met Police, but exclude millions more donated by the British public and exclude also the millions more spent by the Portuguese Police and other national police forces following up hundreds of ‘sightings’ all over the world).

Earlier this month, most British mainstream newspapers reported that Operation Grange was to get a ‘further cash boost’ from the Home Office but that Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, was refusing to disclose to the public how much. This was a typical such report from the Daily Mail: (15 April 2018):

“Detectives refused to discuss details of their 'important final line of inquiry'. Home Secretary Amber Rudd is understood to have ordered the Home Office not to release the amount earmarked. The government has approved a new cash injection for the Madeleine McCann search fund, but the total is being kept under wraps amid fears of a public backlash. Scotland Yard applied for the funding to investigate Maddie's disappearance in February. The amount is thought to be as much as £150,000…Home Secretary Amber Rudd (pictured) is understood to have ordered the Home Office not to release the amount earmarked”.

Given these considerations and the public’s and the media’s high level of interest in this case for 11 years, and the professed desire of both the Met Police and the McCanns to be ‘open and transparent’ about their investigations, please answer the following questions:

1. Applications for funding by the Met Police were made initially in May 2011 when the Home Office granted a reported £2.5 million for the initial review. Since then there have been several applications for more money. In each of these cases, please give:
A The date of each application for funding, including the initial £2.5 million grant
B The date, in each case, of when the application was approved by the Home Office
C  State in each case whether the Met Police’s applications were made verbally or in writing   
D  In each case give the name and rank of the Met Police officer who made (and/or signed off) each application
E  In each case state whether the Home Secretary alone, and in person, made each of the  decisions to continue the funding, and if not alone, specify the rank of the senior civil servant who assisted in approving any application


2. List all meetings between either the Home Secretary and/or her staff  and the McCanns or their representatives since 1 January 2009

3. List all meetings between either the Home Secretary and/or her staff  and senior officers of the Metropolitan Police where the Madeleine McCann case has been discussed         

4. State whether the large amount of help from the Portuguese Police to Operation Grange since 2012 (including staff time, practical assistance with interviewing suspects, hiring Alouette  Mark III helicopters or other equipment, facilitating the searches of two pieces of waste ground  in Portugal, attending meetings or providing all and any other assistance, has been provided free, or whether on terms, whether financial or otherwise, and if so, state the total amounts paid to the Portuguese authorities since 1 January 2012 and whether any amounts to be paid are still outstanding

5. State the amounts of money granted by the Home Office to Operation Grange since 1 January 2017 and the dates on which the actual payments were sent to the Met Police.

6. State whether Amber Rudd has ordered amounts spent by the Home Office not to be disclosed and (if so) please state the date on which she made that decision.

Yours faithfully,

Anthony Bennett

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Re: New HOME OFFICE FOIAct request, 24 Apr 2018: (A) Procedures for approving grants to Operation Grange (B) Costs to Portugal of helping Operation Grange

Post by Verdi on 25.04.18 1:06

@sar wrote:Amazing!

What is?

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Re: New HOME OFFICE FOIAct request, 24 Apr 2018: (A) Procedures for approving grants to Operation Grange (B) Costs to Portugal of helping Operation Grange

Post by Tony Bennett on 25.04.18 13:38

Acknowledgement from the Home Office:

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

FOI Requests, Home Office 25 April 2018   

Dear Mr. Bennett,
 
Thank you for contacting the Home Office with your request.
 
This has been assigned to a caseworker (case ref 48294). We will aim to send you a full response by 23/05/2018 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,
 
N McKenzie
FOI Requests
Home Office




.

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