Big Brother Watch is currently in the process of conducting an investigation, a report on which will be released in the coming weeks, into an aspect of Police policy.
In order to do this, we have submitted Freedom of Information requests to Police forces across the country.
Statutorily, public service bodies are obliged to respond to Freedom of Information requests within a mandatory period of twenty working days. An overwhelming majority of Police forces have responded to our request in time, with the information we requested enclosed.
Sadly, Northamptonshire Police do not appear to think that Freedom of Information laws apply to them. This morning - a day after the statutory deadline for responses passed - we received this e-mail:
RE: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 - REQUEST FOR INFORMATION
Our Ref: 002132/11
With reference to your e-mail received 01/06/2011 requesting information:
This is to inform you that Northamptonshire Police will not be able to complete the response to your request by the date originally indicated. However, I can advise you that the amended date for a response is 28/7/11, and that every effort will be made to ensure that you receive an appropriate response as soon as possible and in any case within this new timescale.
On behalf of Northamptonshire Police, I do apologies [sic] for any inconvenience that may be caused by this delay and if you wish to discuss this any further then please contact the undersigned.
Northamptonshire Police provides a review and appeals procedure within the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. If you decide to make an appeal and, having followed the full process you are still dissatisfied, you will then have the right to direct your comments to the Information Commissioner who will give due consideration to the matter. See Appendix 'a' attached.
Data Protection/Freedom of Information
Telephone 03000 111 222 x2339 Facsimile 01604 888304
Not only have Northamptonshire Police failed to respond in a timely manner to a Freedom of Information request the majority of other forces have responded to, they also appear to believe it's acceptable to deliver this information a month late.
While this is clearly unacceptable, Northamptonshire Police's intransigence is far from being an isolated case. We'd refer them to the Information Commissioner if we had even a modicum of confidence in his office to enforce penalties against those failing to comply with FOI regulations.
Why do so many public bodies believe it's acceptable to openly flout Freedom of Information laws?