Met police charged with ‘serious failure’ in system reporting ‘high risk’ access to information requests
Former Labor shadow chancellor John McDonnell told openDemocracy: “This is a shocking revelation. The effective functioning of freedom of information is essential to ensure that we have accountable public services.
“Targeting journalists and organizations campaigning for special treatment jeopardizes our ability to stand up to the truth and hold public bodies to account.”
Silkie Carlo, director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, said: “This shocking discovery shows that the Met Police are compiling lists of journalists and human rights activists asking tough questions.
“This is a serious breach by the Met of its obligations to handle access to information requests in a fair, objective and anonymous manner and is likely to have a chilling effect.
“We rely on FOI’s demands to shed light on rights violations and injustice, but if our demands are treated as something between a public relations issue and a monitoring opportunity, our job is all the more. difficult and transparency is hampered. “
‘A bad record’
The figures released last year show that the Metropolitan Police fail to respond to more than 40% of access to information requests on time. The backlog of delayed FOIs had become so severe that before the pandemic, the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO) – the FOI watchdog – was considering issuing a notice of execution to the force.
A report by openDemocracy, also released last year, named the Met as one of three police forces with chronic problems blocking access to information over the past five years. Along with the Sussex and City of London Police Force, Met Police accounted for half of the 108 ICO ruling notices issued in the policing and justice sector.
Under the Met’s system, Freedom of Information requests are given labels explaining why they pose a high risk, including “Media-generated,” “Political-Party-generated” and “Likely Media Interest.” .
A spokesperson for the Freedom of Information Campaign said: “Requests should not be treated any differently because they come from a journalist or someone who may make disclosures.
“If 1,200 requests per year – almost a third of all FOI requests to the Met – are treated as ‘high risk’ and subject to additional clearance procedures, this will cause serious delays in response. This helps explain why the Met has such a poor FAITH record. “
They added, “When a journalist makes a request, publicity can follow, but publicity does not mean harm to law enforcement and is not a reason for requests to be denied or delayed.”