Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Unlawful payments - The police FOI response

Update 18th June; I have now requested an internal review of the refusal to provide documents and the final report, the request can be found here.
Unfortunately, with regards to the curious fact that there was no communication between the council and the police during the three month investigation we can only wonder....or maybe they used carrier pigeons and powers of telepathy, neither of which I though to ask about in my FOI.


As you may remember, the investigation by Gloucestershire police into the pension and libel indemnity scandals in Carmarthenshire Council failed to find evidence of criminality and was concluded last month.

It remains the case that as far as the Wales Audit Office are concerned, the pension payment and the libel indemnity are both unlawful.

Following the conclusion of the police investigation I made a freedom of Information request to Gloucestershire police. The response came today and there is a link at the end of this post.

I asked for;

1. A list of any persons interviewed, and /or job titles, and whether any of these were 
interviewed under caution 
2. Correspondence between Gloucestershire Constabulary and Carmarthenshire County 
3. Whether or not the Crown Prosecution Service were involved and if so, any relevant correspondence. 

The responses were that;

....nobody was interviewed,

....there was no correspondence between the council and the police and

....the CPS weren't involved.

This was, you recall, a three month long criminal investigation....

I also asked for;

4. The final report following the conclusion of the investigation 
5. A list, or summary, of all documents in either paper or electronic form which formed part 
of the investigation.

These were refused under the Section 30 exemption in that the release of this information may jeopardise police tactics in the future...presumably they're expecting a flurry of similar local authority unlawfulness.

A thorough investigation? We'll have to take their word for it. I remain of the view that in both instances there was, amongst other matters, the deliberate prevention of proper scrutiny as documented in the two Wales Audit Office reports.

The full FOI response can be read here.

I am now considering whether to request an internal review of their response.


Update 16th June; As you will know, the police investigation also covered Pembrokeshire Council and their own pensions scandal relating to the chief executive and another unnamed officer.
Pembrokeshire Cllr Mike Stoddart (Old Grumpy) reflects on the issue and the conclusion of the investigation;
No questions asked
(and his garden looks great)


Anonymous said...

Who on earth was the Senior Investigating Officer? It sounds like an investigation by no-one into nothing!

Anonymous said...

Firstly thee has to be an offence to investigate and interview people for. Unfortunately horrendous governance is not an offence, that's probably where the investigation ended.

Anonymous said...

It looks like they knocked on door and asked had any criminal activity taken place they got no reply, so they thought that's O.K. then, and left.

Perhaps they have set up some monitoring software and tracking devices?

Anonymous said...

How could any offence be exposed unless there is an investigation. That would involve certain individuals being interviewed and scrutinising paper trails. There clearly was no interest by the police.

Owen said...

Am I reading the full response correctly? The police authority's reason for withholding the information is that if it were published it might encourage criminals to commit less serious crimes? Heaven forfend!

caebrwyn said...

@Owen Yes, you read that correctly!

Redhead said...

Independent Police Complaints Commission?

Anonymous said...

This is clearly not right.

A complaint about a criminal offence has been made and the Police have been called in carry out a proper investigation.

The responsibility of the Police in this would be to investigate the matter but above all they must search for the truth.

The basis of the complaint is that the CE has acted improperly and for them to carry out a proper investigation common sense dictates that they should at least have had a conversation with him - whether. Under caution or not.

There is no way that the Police could have carried out a proper investigation without having spoken to the principle people involved.

Although pulblic authorities have a duty to assist in FIO disclosure it may be worth asking if the correspondence and interviews were undertaken by Dyfed Powys Police on behalf of Gloucestershire Constabulary. I doubt if this were the case but Gloucestershiere may be trying to use this to evade answering.

Something smells very fishy here !!

caebrwyn said...

Thanks for the comments.

@Anon 20:16

Yes, fishy is the word.
Before I made the request I sought some advice from Dyfed Powys Police, they sent the following responses;

"Guidance from Dyfed-Powys Police (DPP) CID;

1. DPP holds some detail of the investigation.
2. However, this detail is owned by Gloucestershire Constabulary (GC) who undertook the investigation after it had been referred on by DPP.

The reason for the referral was to ensure that DPP remained independent from the investigation due to the existing close working arrangements between DPP and the council.

On the basis of this, the query should be made as an FOI request to GC. However, that is not to say that they [caebrwyn] would receive the information requested as FoI exemptions would be considered.

Guidance from DPP FoI unit;

In respect to what the applicant [caebrwyn] is entitled to, this depends on what information is held, the status of the investigation and who made statements.

If DPP received the request we need sight of the information requested and held by our force.
We then assess its suitability for disclosure/non-disclosure. There are, however, exemptions under the FoI Act which can prevent the disclosure of information.
These include, but are not limited to:

Section 30 (investigations)
Section 40 (personal information)
Section 31 (law enforcement).

The Section 30 exemption can only be applied by the authority undertaking the investigation.

It covers information held at any time for the purposes of an investigation, whether the case is ongoing, closed or abandoned.

Details surrounding whether a person has been interviewed under caution would potentially constitute sensitive personal information under the Data Protection Act.

This Act can prevent the disclosure of personal information under FOI; however, ICO guidance states that information is not automatically exempt just because it is personal data.

This is why it would be necessary to assess each piece of information and potentially consult those who have made statements to seek their view on the disclosure/non-disclosure of their personal information.

If the police force holds the information but it has originated from elsewhere - ie another force - there would be a need for the force to also undertake third party consultation with the investigating force to ascertain their views on disclosure/non-disclosure.

I suggest that the only way the applicant is likely to be in a position to seek this information would be under the FOI Act via Gloucestershire Constabulary.

However, as identified above, this does not mean that the applicant would receive all - if any - of the information requested."

If there are any employees and/or councillors who were in fact interviewed by anyone from either Dyfed Powys or Gloucestershire Police over this matter, and are prepared to say so, I'd be interested to know.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't sound right to me.

The police say that they have not spoken to anybody, either under caution or otherwise.

They say that they have not taken advice from CPS on any aspect of this investigation - this sounds particularly odd as even junior members of the force liaise with CPS on a very regular basis about on-going enquiries. Until recently officers had to consult with CPS on even the most minor of criminal offences if someone had been arrested for charging advice etc.

I find it inconceivable that they would not liaise with CPS on something so politically sensitive, for advice on what offences may or may not be committed.

They say that they have not corresponded with the council, presumably this would include emails etc yet they refuse to disclose what documents they have.

If, as they say, they have not corresponded with the council what documents do they have and how did they come by them. If the documents haven't been sent to them by the council in the form of correspondence what can they be - presumably they must be publicly available documents ,press items, internaly generated documents or print outs from your blog ?

If this is the case why should they not be disclosed ? A review may be the way to go.

The Sentinel. said...

The Wales Audit Office said the payments were unlawful, the police on the other hand concluded there were no offences revealed. Well they can’t both be right can they? The Audit Office’s speciality is in auditing so surely they’d uncover some evidence and give the police a list of people to 'trace, interview and eliminate' from the enquiry. It hardly seems that there has been a complete thorough or ethical investigation into these allegations. The police have accredited financial investigators - did they even examine the books? 30 years as a cop tells me something isn’t quite right.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Why don't you get Jonathan Edwards to ask questions of the Home Sec, surprising what you get under parliamentary privilege which you can't get under FOIA. I would also ask for a review as Police tactics consist of surveillance methods. All this was public before Police involvement so there was no covert tactics and I can't see Mark James's phone being tapped. Anyway when cases come to court everything is disclosed so I think you have good argument for review.