Phone Hacking: will Scotland Yard ever cough up their secretive stash of emails?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ewancross/3025040152/

Nothing to hide? Scotland Yard delay the release of emails. Photo credit: Ewan Cross, CC license

The day after the revelations that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked, Scotland Yard announced that they could not disclose emails between police and the News of The World. They told this blog that all emails over three years old had been deleted.

But, when they were quizzed on this, they eventually admitted in September that the emails did still exist. They said the emails were “retained for business continuity purposes on tapes.”

It seems that politicians and journalists have not been able to get access to this secretive stash of emails. The constraints of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) restrict disclosure requests to ones that can be completed within 18 hours.

Particularly interesting would be Andy Hayman’s and John Yates’ correspondence while phone hacking was rife at News International. But the FOIA constraints appear to have prevented these from being scrutinised.

So, a new disclosure request to the Met was submitted for this blog. It was deliberately narrow, using the time allowances the Met themselves had stated, so that the request couldn’t be rejected. Although it would not retrieve very much, it was a test to see if the Met were really prepared to stick to information laws – and disclose any emails at all.

A day before the legal deadline for disclosure this month… the Met said they were delaying their response!

They said: “We are currently trying to establish what information the MPS holds, if any, and whether it can be retrieved within the cost threshold.” They could not provide a date when a disclosure would definitely be made.

The (tedious) saga continues…

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3 Responses to Phone Hacking: will Scotland Yard ever cough up their secretive stash of emails?

  1. John Brace says:

    What can be done though is that you can submit a second FOI request for a part of the record that could be retrieved within 18 hours.

    For example if they have 800,000 emails (this is just a guess), you’re not going to get all of them, but if you asked for an email sent or received at a specific date, hour and time it might be able to be done within the 18 hours.

    If you gave the person it was sent from and to, as well as email address this would also help them find it.

    Course then the police could rely on another exemption in the FOI Act. 😉

    • Yep, this is what I did – sorry if the article is unclear. At the bottom of the FOI request I put a breakdown of the amount of time it would take them, according to information they themselves had provided previously and it was specifically written so that it would be within the 18 hours.

      • John Brace says:

        Ahh that’s much clearer now, but what you’ve got to realise is once you get past the 18 hours, it’ll be “prejudice an ongoing investigation” as well as a few other the police use too.

        Or you might get the email/s with anything useful blacked out.

        There are routes to go round but it gets very complicated and they rely to a large extent on people giving up. What date did you submit the original request?

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