Blues And Twos - Police Officer's Blog

Blues and Twos - Police & Law Blog is a an amalgamation of thoughts, feelings and observations on news, current affairs and UK policing in general. Our police blog has contributions from officers of the rank of Inspector (Organ Grinder) down to Constable (Monkey). Blues and Twos - The Police Officer's Blog

Police Equipment

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Police Information

Police information being used by criminals? No....... Never, I can't believe it!

The Independent ran an article the other day on how police information, such as confidential and critical information on details concerning surveillance tactics, forensic techniques, or the steps used to finally trace and apprehend criminals and the like, is being given away to all and sundry under legislation covered in the Freedom of Information Act.

If you didn't know, The Freedom of Information Act came into force on January 1st 2005 and allows the public access to information held by more than 100,000 public bodies.

The article titled criminals using FoI Act to identify informants went on to talk about how one particular force had hundreds of requests from one individual, who then went on to use the information and attempt to gain access to secure police premises and impersonate a police officer.

Speaking to the newspaper, police revealed that over 100 convicted criminals are thought to have requested information from public bodies, including The Home Office. They also stressed that such illicit FOI requests made up only a tiny proportion of the 22,000 applications police dealt with in England and Wales last year.

Yes you read that right, last year the police in the UK, (on top of all the additional paperwork that's recently been generated due to having to fill in forms for even the most mundane of cases in triplicate.) now have to provide anyone who cares to know with what previously would have been classed as confidential information, that actually could seriously hinder the effective investigation of crime, or even worse jeopardize police or public safety.

There are now websites springing up offering courses on fully exploiting the FOI Act - ".....freelance journalists are invited to a practical training course in London, designed to teach users how to best navigate the Act and avoid its potential pitfalls. (the) course covers freelancers working in journalism, research, campaigns and citizens advice, among other sectors."

So what's to stop anyone turning up at these training courses? What kinds of checks are made on the people being taught how to access potentially damaging information?

There's even a few websites that appear to champion the ease in which this information can be gained from public bodies such as the government, local councils etc. With one report trumpeting how journalists provide one in ten FOI requests.

Well that's excellent, a really constructive use of police time which otherwise could have been spent patrolling the streets, reassuring the public, reducing crime etc.

So tell me how can this be in the public's best interest? Yes I agree that as a whole the police service must become more publicly accountable, but how does allowing criminals access to previously confidentially material under the guise of the FOI Act serve the public, or have the public's best interest at heart?

You know, I think this is another example of how bureaucracy has forced us all to become soft on the causes of crime.


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