Freedom of Information

Redacted/Unredacted

Redacted/Unredacted

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
Roald Dahl

Here’s the reality. This blog and the examples of institutional corruption we are highlighting  against medically-retired former police officers – and likely, those who are both vulnerable and mentally fragile – is part of the large-scale abuse of those with injury awards in this country. To an abuser who likes power and control, a disability is perfect.  The adversary to power and control is exposure.

Exposure can be denied.  So when is something off-limits and how can a public body hide disclosure under the Freedom Of Information Act?  The Freedom of Information Act in the UK does have some limits on disclosure. One method to comply with the act whilst meeting these limits is supplying material in a censored or “redacted” format.

Often you have to take the word of the public body that the redaction has been applied correctly. So when you have both the redacted and un-redacted versions of minutes from the same Avon & Somerset meetings – all of which are concerning their administration (or should that read maladministration) of injury awards – it’s evident that taking this word at face value is a mistake.

Now that these minutes are in the public domain you have the opportunity to decide whether their redaction was legitimate.

Before we get there, let us just discuss redaction.  In this method, a document is made available but with some text removed (often literally with a black marker pen). In the most straightforward cases, this may be just removing the names of junior officials or office staff, usually for privacy reasons.

It’s understandable when  redacted information constitutes personal data, and the public body would be in breach of the Data Protection Act if it were to put such information into the public domain.

But in other cases, large amounts of text are illicitly removed so that documents are almost unreadable and the information value is minimal – for no other reason than they’ll rather you not see it.

This redaction technique is abused so that certain nincompoops can deliberately leave no trace of their decision-making process within the public body they serve.

Strangely enough, such cretins seem to pop up in the administration of injury awards.

Can the disclosure of un-redacted meeting minutes really be prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs?  What happens if the public affairs being minuted involves evidence of Malfeasance in a public office, or official misconduct?

Redaction does not give officials an excuse to cover-up the commissioning of their unlawful acts, done in an official capacity, which affects the legitimate performance of true official duties.

It is both highly disturbing and in the public interest to discover an official policy tasked to look at the medical files relating to every individual who was medically retired by a certain deceased police surgeon (employed by Avon & Somerset police between 1972 and 2006), to ascertain if such medical retirement was in their ‘view’ unlawful/illegal.  Especially as this doctor is at the epicentre of an ongoing historical sexual abuse inquiry named Operation Hay.

Potential victims – all who served as police officers – now are suffering the ignominy of a small number of devious employees within Avon & Somerset Police digging through (and without any consent to process) sensitive personal and medical data relating to their injury awards.  In other words, a shadow investigation exists – running parallel to a major criminal inquiry – with the sordid misapprehension that every decision made by this police surgeon (employed by this force for over 30 years) is now open to be revisited.

Isn’t it absolutely abhorrent that the force chooses to investigate only the things relating to their mania to reduce injury awards and seemingly they are in no hurry to question the blood tests of convicted drunk drivers, rape cases or assaults this police surgeon helped to convict?

The IPCC is currently looking into allegations that when a number of officers – likely the same people whose medical files retained by this force are now being ferreted by Dr David Bulpitt –  came forward on separate occasions throughout the 1990s to complain about Dr Bunting, those complaints were not properly investigated by the force.  In other words, whilst the IPCC’s investigates the Operation Hay cover-up the same force is conspiring against the victims whose complaints were brushed aside.

Here are a few choice sentences that the eager redaction gremlins working in A&S attempted to hide from Freedom Of Information disclosure of the minutes of an Avon & Somerset injury award liaison group meeting.  Redaction that we’ve recovered (hence the slightly different font) that tried to hide that Dr David Bulpitt, the current force medical advisor, has been tasked with the thorough inspection of the files of potential victims.

DBu [David Bulpitt] to review all individuals’ records identified through Op Hay to ascertain which Dr awarded their band or undertook a review of a band given.Avon & Somerset OH Review meeting 23rd October 2015 action log

And

During the course of conversations it became clear that there were some concerns around why certain awards may have been made by the Dr in post at the time. It was agreed that DBu would review all of the names that are on the Op Hay list to see if they had been given an illegal/incorrect award as a result of being seen by the individual who is currently subject of an investigation.Avon & Somerset OH Review meeting 23rd October 2015 Minutes

Of course, A&S do not want the public to know this as it contrary to the law for them, in any way imaginable, to try to revisit old statutory decisions – so they take the black marker to it and redact it all in an attempt to cover it up.

Fortunately for the public good, there is an un-redacted version in the public domain.  The left side shows what happens when you give a black permanent marker to crazed scribblings of an over-enthusiastic denier of public disclosure:

Redacted Un-redacted
minutes-23rd-october-2015-before minutes-23rd-october-2015-after
 Raw & Unformated Version

Click on the image and a new tab will show the disclosure in it’s entirety.  You can use the arrows in the bottom right to toggle to the page two for those with multiple pages.pdf-next-page
We now also get to see evidence that legal services has finally accepted that the GMC enforces that every individual seen by a SMP is a patient of that SMP.

DJ [Daniel Johnson] indicated that due to the information forward to Legal Services from DBu [Dr David Bulpitt] they now had a much clearer understanding of the difficulties being experienced as a result of the GMC indicating that each individual under the review is classified as being a patientAvon & Somerset OH Review meeting 23rd October 2015 Minutes

That each and every person seen by a Selected Medical Practitioner (the prerequisite of such being GMC registration) is their patient is fact – after all it is a medical question – but they want to censure that they now accept it.  We’ve been trying to tell them this for years: the GMC guidance is unambiguous:

The first duty of a doctor registered with the GMC is to make the care of their patient their first concern. The term ‘patient’ in this guidance also refers to employees, clients, athletes and anyone else whose personal information you hold or have access to, whether or not you care for them in a traditional therapeutic relationship.
GMC Confidentiality: disclosing information for insurance, employment and similar purposes

So why is it redacted?  Could it be because it proves their position wrong perhaps.

They also decided to retract information about Operation Hay, as mentioned above, and they talk about the implied threat that legal services are going to put in the letter about suspending an injury award when consent to medical information is withdrawn.

This leads us to the ‘action log’ from the same meeting.  They redacted the recorded statement that their lawyer, Daniel Johnson, stated that such suspension is unlawful but, as an aside, they’ll still write a letter dripping with a purely heinous form of blackmail, that will be sent out to imply an unlawful thing will be actually be carried out.

Were these threatening letters actually sent out?  Perhaps they were, and the poor recipient capitulated to a threat with menaces.  Ironically, to acquiesce to such blackmail usually results in a ‘gun for hire’ SMP applying apportionment or some unlawful earnings assessment to reduce the injury award; see the predicament the former officer faces? – they are truly damned if they don’t and then damned anyway.

If anyone reading this has received such a letter, then they are advised to seek counsel with a specialist solicitor.

Looking behind the black permanent marker and you see this:

DJ advised the Pension Authority that when sending out letters to individuals who have withdrawn consent that a reduction in banding given can only be implied as you cannot predetermine and outcome if release is not madeAction Log 23rd October 2015

So far they have obviously redacted the truths that we have been shouting for a while, but few in a position of power believed – the truth that they manipulate the law for their own ends.

Here is the action log for the 23/10/2015 meeting in its ingloriously malignant splendour:

Redacted Un-redacted
action-log-23rd-october-2015-before action-log-23rd-october-2015-after
 Raw & Unformated Version

Rather than try to hide it by redacting, the stuff found within shouldn’t have been thought, said nor written in the first place.

What else have these deviants been up to?

The 1st of March minutes has a section redacted that mentions reviewing people without passing the medical question to the SMP. On it’s own, this isn’t too aberrant.  However, if you factor in the draconian practice this force has conducted to drag severely ill people – those who haven’t had any correspondence from the force for a long time – in front of Dr Philip Johnson without exemption, you start to wonder why the sudden deviation from their usual behaviour.

Apparently a band four (therefore one of Dr Bulpitt’s  unfavoured selfish and preposterous few) and band one were reviewed on paper by Dr Bulpitt himself, without the demand to be medically examined.  Rather a change of tactic here given that Dr Philip Johnson earned £74,220 for 46 days work from Avon & Somerset in from December 1st 2015 to 11th October 2016.

Redacted Un-redacted
minutes-1st-march-2016-before minutes-1st-march-2016-after

If Bulpitt was doing the work of a SMP, why was Johnson still being paid?  And why are some retired officers forced to see Dr Johnson and interrogated for two hours when others get a free pass for a paper review?  Consistency is not their strong point.

And finally onto the 14th June 2016 minutes.  This is the excerpt that has been redacted from the document on the left:

RW raised the issues of information disclosed via FOI’s, as LG personal email  had been disclosed, although we are unsure through which avenue FOI or
Subject Access request.
Action: SA to check with relevant depts. and CD to check with JK  SA/CD

RW is Richard Wand.  He is a former constable and now a civilian employed by Avon & Somerset Federation JBB as a Regulations and Welfare Advisor

Redacted Un-redacted
14th-june-2016-notes-of-iod-liaison-group-mtg-before 14th-june-2016-notes-of-iod-liaison-group-mtg-after
Raw & Unformated version

Hardly a section that screams out to be redacted given LG is unidentified and RW is listed, un-redacted, as an attendee: Richard Wand RW Police Federation.  There does not seem to be any sane reason why redaction has been implemented but it is a clear example why you shouldn’t trust the whys and wherefores they use to justify redacting something.

They want to hide behind the black permanent marker.  Unfortunately on this occasion the marker was filled with disappearing ink.

Abuse of the Freedom of Information Act is bad enough when it happens.  When it is the Police performing the abuse the affect is magnified exponentially as their expected standard is higher given their position and that they have a near-monopoly on the use of coercive force.

It is also clear that when these people do things in the full knowledge that they are wrong they put aside the fact that the legitimacy of the police in the eyes of the public is a significant determinant of police effectiveness.

For those reading this, shocked and with their mouths agape, staring at a screen and trying to parse everything that has happened, here’s a recap:

  • The lead solicitor for the Legal Services department of Avon & Somerset constabulary has confirmed that Regulation 33 PIBR 2006 cannot be used to punish the withdrawal of medical consent.  Despite this, he is fully prepared to deceive a member of the public into believing that their injury award can be punitively reduced by suggestion alone.  This policy had been redacted as a means of censorship to avoid the ensuing scandal. 
  • The force medical advisor of the same police force that employed a doctor (now deceased), whose actions are currently under investigation for dozens of sex attacks on young officers during medical examinations, has taken it upon himself to revisit final statutory decisions by looking whether all the ill-health retirements decided by the police pension authority, over a period of 30 years, were unlawful.   This policy had been redacted as a means of censorship to avoid the ensuing scandal.

You might think that sounds conspiratorial. It is.

This is more than just isolated bad-apples.  The utterings of those who attended these IOD liaison meeting meetings was not redacted by them – powers above them allowed this happen.  Another internal department would’ve been complicit in deciding  to remove whatever they considered sensational:  Corporate Information Management, Legal Services and no doubt, members of the senior executive team must have had a role to authorise this.  You can imagine how it was said, with a red-faced senior figure screaming “whatever you do, don’t let that get out!

What does it say about the culture of ethics existing in such an organisation that allows a cover-up to evolve into a conspiracy.

When a member of Parliament gives such a damning speech in the House of Commons – Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater and West Somerset) (Con) on the Chief Constable Of Avon And Somerset Police Force – there is clearly a systemic ‘rotten barrel’ explanation that permeates through the senior management subculture.

From this point onwards do not give the police force you served with the benefit of the doubt.  When you are sent a threatening letter, think that they are probably lying and trying to coerce you to do something you have no lawful obligation to do.

If you are disclosed heavily redacted information then demand them to explain the exemption applied.  If they refuse to explain why each and every sentence has been blacked out then take the matter to the ICO.

The minutes should be specific to the matter being minuted.  You asked for disclosure from that meeting and therefore everything talked about, excluding the obvious personal information, should be in play for disclosure.

Hiding behind a veil of secrecy is an act deployed by Soviet Union’s KGB and East Germany’s Stasi.  It is unforgivable for such tactics to be seen in the UK.

As our skin crawls, it is worth forcing ourselves to look at the reality – we must confront not only the scale of these abused, disabled victims but also this country’s failure to help them.

 

 

Blowin’ in the Wind

Blowin’ in the Wind

“I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible….except by getting off his back.” ― Leo Tolstoy, What Then Must We Do?


…and how many times must they say they must review
Before there’s no savings to be gained?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

This song speaks about humanity, war and peace and other ambiguous questions which people refuse to answer. Bob Dylan claims that the answers are already there.  In his own words:

Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won’t believe that. I still say it’s in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down some …But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know . . . and then it flies away. I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it’s wrong. I’m only 21 years old and I know that there’s been too many . . . You people over 21, you’re older and smarter.

We at IODPA have been piecing together some of the pieces of the electronic paper trail left blowing in the wind by police forces, and they tell a story of their true agenda concerning reviews of injury pensions.

Some forces are two-faced.

With their public face, HR managers bang on about how they have a duty to hold reviews. They point to the Regulations in support of this claim. With their hidden, private, yet so revealing face they chatter away about the cost of injury pensions and how reviews might save them money. The hidden face reveals attitudes towards disabled people which are close to being hateful.

So many times have disabled former officers been told about the supposed positive, statutory, power to review an injury award, whenever the fancy takes them, and we have seen how certain police pension authorities relish the task. They, just like Tolstoy’s piggy-backer, claim in the same breath that they are a reluctant agent; that their hands are tied and they have no choice in the matter.

Blow the health and sanity of those caught up in the review roller-coaster.

On every opportunity we’ve argued against this hogwash.  Repeating our assertion that the Regulations intend that a review should be a blue moon event solely dependent on the circumstances of the individual.

And then yet another piece of paper flutters down in front of us.  This time from Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

The latest IOD policy from Cambridgeshire is that as there are no savings to made then the ‘proactive’ review policy of the force will be suspended.

“That in the absence of current national guidance on Injury Award Reviews and the diminishing likelihood of accruing further savings, the current proactive review process be suspended. “

How very interesting.

It seems then, from this that the attitude of those in authority is the review provision within the Regulations is there to allow them to save money. This is about as far away from the true purpose and intent of the Regulations as it is possible to bend one’s thinking. According to Cambs, they review to try to save money, then stop reviewing when it becomes clear that there will be no savings.

Thus the ‘proactive’ review policy was always down to a desire to make financial savings and with the intention to reduce the band of those reviewed.

2.5       The process of carrying out first reviews has generated some savings through the reduction in bandings of allowance for some recipients.  However, experience shows that any further reductions in bandings is less likely as a result of second and further reviews.

Their ‘positive power’ to review evaporates as easily as turning off the tap.  When there are no savings they think there is no point.

Our message is, and has always been, that the true purpose of the review provision within the Regulations is nothing to do with ‘making savings’.  Any attempt to review on this basis is blatantly unlawful.

Cambridgeshire police pension authority has clearly fallen far short of the statutory legal requirements set out in the Regulations.

Cambridgeshire cannot say they inadvertently carried out a lawful duty defectively.  Once those defects become apparent or the authority was made aware of the legal issues, if, those defects go uncorrected and the action continues, it is our understanding from that point onwards those people working for the authority, and/or the authority itself, then commit the criminal offence of misconduct in public office.

Read their latest policy and decide for yourself.
http://iodpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/FOI-0871-2016-Injury-Awards-August-2016-FEB.pdf

(To go to page two move your cursor to the bottom left and click the arrow.)

foi-0871-2016-injury-awards-august-2016-feb

 

2005 to 2015 – A Decade Measured

2005 to 2015  – A Decade Measured

“There’s no going back, and there’s no hiding the information. So let everyone have it.”
Andrew Kantor

An often-asked question is, ‘How many former police officers have injury awards?’

The Home Office claims it doesn’t have a clue about numbers.  Whether you believe that or not is up to you.

So, unfortunately there is no central database, and with 43 police forces in England and Wales, one in Northern Ireland and one in Scotland, gathering in the information is something of a chore.  We at IODPA are pleased to say that for us it was a task worth undertaking.  And the results of our enquiry are revealing.

IODPA has been busy.  Using the Freedom of Information Act, all police forces except Police Scotland* were asked the question of how many injury award recipients they have. They were also asked how many reviews of injury pensions have been conducted by year since 2005.

* We didn’t ask Police Scotland because we get no enquiries from north of the border, and we also understand that having recently combined eight forces into one some record systems are in a mess.

First, the facts. The results are set out below in graphical form. Then the comment. We have added some observations on what the figures might indicate to conclude this post.

Not all forces have provided the information requested. South Wales Police and Lancashire Police both advise that they have handed over all their files concerning police injury pensions to commercial companies, who are now, it seems, administering these pensions. Cumbria Constabulary and Surrey Police are experiencing delays in providing the information.

From the data we have received we know there are 15,543 disabled former officers in receipt of injury pensions. By looking at some previous research, undertaken in 2011, we are able to estimate that the true figure is in excess of 16,500.

At the end of 2010, there were 13,872 IOD pensioners in England and Wales.  If we remove the PSNI figure of 2,566 IOD pensioners from our current estimated total, we see that in England and Wales, there are around currently 14,000 IOD pensioners on the books.

IOD ratio to Serving
Plot 1. Percentage of IODs to Serving Officers by Force (2015)

Plot 1 shows the ratio as a percent of IODs to serving officers by each force.  Those forces without a bar (at the bottom of the axis) have as yet not replied to the FOIA request

Unsurprisingly, Police Service of Northern Ireland, has the biggest proportion of IODs at almost 35%.  Other forces with a high proportion of IODs are: Kent, Merseyside, Nottinghamshire, Northumbria, North Wales and Avon & Somerset.

Plot number 2 is a bar chart showing the actual number of IODs of each force.

Number of IOD Pensioners
Plot 2. Number of IOD Pensioners by Force (2015)

Avon & Somerset, Greater Manchester, Kent, Merseyside, the Met,  Northumbria, Northern Ireland and West Yorkshire all have 500 or over current IODs.

Plot 3 displays the percentage of IOD pensions of each force which have been reviewed over the past 5 years.  No blue bar means no reviews.  Only 12 forces have instigated any reviews over the past 5 years.

Percentage Reviewed
Plot 3. Percentage of IODs Reviewed by Force 2011 – 2015

Now we start to see patterns appear.  The names of forces with either a high proportion of IODs to serving officers or/and over 500 IODs reappear as forces that have also reviewed post the Home Office suspension in 2010.  Avon & Somerset, Merseyside, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and West Yorkshire are visible again.

Could it be that the greater number or higher proportion of IODs, the greater the incentive to attempt to reduce their financial burden?

Plot 4 shows us the distribution for the total count of reviews of each force  by the two 5 year periods: 2005 to 2010 (blue) and 2011 to 2015 (pink).

RplotTotalReviews
Plot 4. Histogram (frequency count) of all  reviews 2005 to 2010 (blue) and 2011 to 2015 (pink)

A simplified description of plot 4 is that there is a lot of blue.  Most of the pink is in the first column – the range of counts at zero. In other words in 2011-2015 most forces did not review anyone. The blue counts are asymmetrical.  This means the blue stretches to the right (right skewed)  and there are significantly more values of blue to the right as compared to pink.  Something ‘happened’ in  2005 and this ‘something’ stopped in 2010.

That something was the 2004 guidance contained in Annex C to Home Office circular 46/2004. The guidance contained the remarkable assertion that at age 65 all former officers suddenly lost all capacity to work and thus earn. The guidance also contained some illogical mumbo-jumbo about needing to revise injury pensions at what would be normal force retirement age.

The Home Office suspended all reviews in 2010 because the guidance was finally, after much pointless resistance by the Home Office, agreed to be unlawful. Police Authorities and Chief Constables had been shown to have been abusing the police pension Regulations, with the encouragement of the Home Office.

Plot 5 dramatically displays the initial enthusiasm, from 2005, for reviewing with a pre-ordained intention to reduce everyone no matter what the medical circumstances of the individual.  This came to a crashing halt in 2010.

 

review 2005-2015
Plot 5. Scatterplot of number of reviews by Force and Year 2005 to 2015

Plot 5 shows the flat-lining of reviews post 2010 with only a few forces daring to raise their heads. Merseyside in 2015 is a massive outlier – to be able to hold so many reviews in just one year their processes will have had to been changed dramatically from the norm of the past decade.

The data shows that a sudden enthusiasm for holding reviews of injury pensions, triggered by the Home Office guidance, was not universal, and that it rapidly tailed off once pensioners brought grievances to the attention of the High Court and the Pensions Ombudsman. The Home Office retreated and withdrew its guidance, but the damage was done.

The year on year reduction of reviews over the past decade is backed up with data published by the Home Office in relation to the decisions made in Police Medical Appeal Boards.  Plot 6 shows the numbers of PMAB decisions by the type of hearing: reviews (degree of disablement) or original decisions (permanency, whether it is an IOD,  disablement).

There has been a visible decline in all PMABs with a flat lining of hearings in the 12 months between Nov 13-Oct14.

PMAB results by year
Plot 6.  PMAB hearings by Year and Decision

Strong anecdotal evidence suggests that some Police Pension Authorities are solving their own ‘review’ conundrum by not awarding any injury on duty pensions (and deviantly leaving the officer on both no pay and indefinite sick leave).  Or if an award is given the force uses, in the words of NAMF,  the ‘neither lawful or unlawful’ method of the PEAM to only award band one to the former officer.

Plot 7 shows that over the past 7 years there has been an overall 2% increase in the total number of former officers with an Injury Award.

What is striking is the massive variation between forces.

Some Forces have doubled their number of IOD awards (Kent) whilst others have seen their number halved (Norfolk). Has Kent become twice as dangerous? These figures in isolation may seen trivial to the casual observer but by quantifying the figures now we have a baseline that will be the enabler to show future trends.  This will mean that no force can hide their actions from IODPA and other interested parties.

Percent Change IODs 2008 to 2015
Plot 7. Percentage change of IODs by Force from 2008 to 2015

 

What can not be displayed graphically is the fact that those who have caused so damage to so many medically retired officers by unlawfully conducting reviews are still in their jobs. They have destroyed what little trust existed but still they hold meetings and discuss alternative methods to undermine the Regulations. It is as though they were shown a glimpse of a golden future, where they were promised that what has been described by more than one mercenary member of HR as ‘the burden’ of police injury pension payments could be dramatically reduced. Having seen the illusion of pots of money flowing from the pockets of disabled former officers, to be spent on flashy new cars and computer systems and hiring more and more ‘Heads of People’ or other equally ridiculously-titled poppinjays, it is hard for some people to abandon the dream.

We at IODPA are confident any such dream will turn into a nightmare if there are any further attempts to subvert the Regulations and rob IOD pensioners of their rights.

Looking at the numbers – around 14,000 disabled former officers – we have to wonder why neither NARPO nor the Police Federation apparently have no database of former officers who are in receipt of an injury pension. It is a mystery.  Protecting the pension rights of disabled former officers would be made easier if these two representative organisations made the effort to compile a database.  Interestingly, we understand that NARPO does not even ask the question, ‘Do you have an injury pension?’ when former officers apply to join.

We mentioned the Police Service of Northern Ireland in relation to chart one. The biggest force, with the largest number of IOD pensioners. We are glad to say that this force has taken major steps to put right the iniquities of maladministration which resulted from abuse of the Regulations. This force commissioned an eminent QC, David Scoffield, to enquire into everything, and to produce recommendations. Which he did. And which the PSNI are currently busy implementing.

But, are forces on the mainland watching and listening to events in Northern Ireland? As always, the picture is divided. We can see from the data above that the vast majority of forces in England and Wales either have not held any reviews since 2010, or have held only a handful. However, Avon and Somerset, Merseyside and Nottinghamshire are still in cloud-cuckoo land and have been busy trying to mass review.

Either these forces have lost all touch with reality, or they are an axis of evil. Why would any decent, ethical, humanitarian organisation want to continue holding reviews when all the evidence is that no force has the structure in place, the experience, the training, or the knowledge to do so without continuing to make glaring errors and causing much distress and inconvenience to disabled former officers and their families? That’s not just IODPA’s opinion, it is the facts, as set out in a recent report of an enquiry by the College of Policing. (Which we reported on in an earlier blog).

So, should we be pleased that so few reviews have been held over the last five years? When we see that of the 806 reviews held there were 55 pensioners who had their pensions increased, but 83 who suffered a decrease we have to reserve judgement. We think it entirely possible that the forces who have held reviews may be ‘cherry-picking’ – selecting the pensioners on the higher bandings for review, whilst leaving everyone who is on band one alone. That is certainly the case in Avon and Somerset.

We suspect that never holding reviews can be as bad, for some people as holding mass reviews. Those people who have experienced a worsening of their degree of disablement since 2010 and who should have been upped a band or more, have been denied their proper rate of pension.

We conclude that reviews are a necessary part of the provisions within the Regulations. We have often stated that we are not against reviews, per se, but we want to see all forces abandon their attitude where they think reviews are a means of saving money, and that all pensioners are scroungers or lead-swingers. We want to see forces set up proper systems to allow reviews to be conducted only when absolutely necessary and appropriate, and done so within the spirit and letter of the Regulations, and we want to see pensioners treated with dignity and respect. We want to see certain ‘hired-gun’ SMPs sacked, or better still, sacked and charged with corruption or fraud. We want to see certain incompetent HR managers employed at their true level of ability stacking shelves or collecting trolleys at Tescos. Only then will we rest content. Until that time we will continue to grow in strength, and in numbers, and our determination to see justice prevail will never waver.

 

WDTK

WDTK

“Withholding information is the essence of tyranny. Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.”
Bruce Coville

WhatDoTheyKnow.com (WDTK) is an extremely valuable website.  Without it the Freedom of Information Act would  be in a far, far greater perilous state than it is at the moment.

You have the right to request information from any publicly-funded body, and get answers. WhatDoTheyKnow helps you make a Freedom of Information request. It also publishes all requests online

The unique attraction, and strength,  of WDTK is the on-line publication of each request and the responses by public bodies. By putting everything into the public domain in such a visible and readily accessible form it makes it that much harder for a public body to deal with one requester differently from another. The responses are also instantly searchable by key word and it is possible to tag a public body, or an individual request and get automated updates in one’s area of interest.

When Freedom of Information requests are made by letter or email only the requester knows whether the public body has responded promptly, and unless the organisation has a web based publication policy, and follows it, nobody else gets to see the information gathered.

The WDTK website automatically calculates what the deadline for a response should be, and alerts the requester should there be a delay. The site also contains useful hints and tips on how (and how not) to make a FOI request, and what to do should an organisation refuse to provide the requested information.

In short, WDTK makes it easy for anyone to make FOI requests, and we at IODPA recommend it.

For the more technical minded, it is worth knowing that there is a useful tool which can be used to extract data from WTDK. It is called JSON.  This stands for Javascript Object Notation.  This geeky name isn’t important and there is a point to all this so please don’t tune out yet!

Requests, users and authorities all have JSON versions containing basic information about them. Every request feed has a JSON equivalent, containing summary information about the list of events in the feed. In other words, this tool provides a quick way of getting numbers from everything on WDTK.

Want to instantly know how any requests the Home Office has received? How many were answered?  How many are overdue?  For an example of what can be done, take a look at this:

Home Office JSON link

So what does this all mean to you?  It means we can quickly quantify and compare how public authorities deal with FOIA requests.  Of course, not all requests are sent through WDTK but it is the most widely used method so is hugely representative.

An interesting statistic comes in the answer to this question: of all the public authorities listed as being a policing body, how many requests are unsuccessful?

Would it shock you to to learn that over half of all requests made to public bodies via WDTK which are classed as ‘policing’ were not successful?  Policing bodies are making a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act!

Here is a frequency chart, otherwise known as a histogram,  which is a diagram consisting of rectangles whose area is proportional to the count.  The count in this case is the percentage of unsuccessful requests by all bodies listed on WDTK as classified as a ‘policing body’.

not_successful

See the high bars, from the tallest, at 40%, 50%,100% and 70%?  40% is the mode; the mode is a type of average and on a histogram it is the tallest column and so is the value that appears most often in a set of data.  The next highest is 50% then 100% and so on.  As you can see there are more bars the further right you look.  The average of the data is 59.8%.  In other words almost 60% of requests to policing bodies are unsuccessful.

So 60% of requests to police authorities are not answered!  Shameful isn’t it.

Policing bodies apparently have a culture of doing whatever they can to prevent disclosure under the FOI act.

To prove this point let us see how NHS trusts compare.  This histogram has the same data as the above but this time we have overlapped the figures of policing bodies unsuccessful requests with data from the 237 active NHS trusts listed on WDTK.

nhs and policing

The NHS trusts are shown in blue and the policing body data is now in pink.  It is clear that the NHS trusts are far more consistent with each other – the blue bars are grouped significantly closer together than the pink.  But look at the highest point now with the sharp decline of blue to its right and notice that there is only a small handful of NHS trusts that fail to answer more than 50% of received requests – this is directly contrary to the majority of the policing bodies whose unsuccessful request count spans further to the right and all the way to 100%.  Past 50% there is much, much more pink than blue.

The average of unsuccessful requests for NHS trusts is only 32%.   Stating the obvious, this is significantly lower when compared to the 59.8% of policing bodies.

Why the difference? And why is the NHS performing better in answering FOIA requests? The disclosure law applies in equal measure to all.  There is no doubt that within policing bodies an institutional arrogance exists that makes them think they are above the legal requirement to make information disclosures.

Let us examine which policing bodies are the most frequent offenders.  Using JSON we can examine the number of requests received by each policing body and plot this with the number of requests outstanding (outstanding means the request hasn’t been answered and has gone over the 20 day answer deadline).  The size of plot represents, by body, the number of requests, which are not successful (the bigger the shape, the higher the count of unsuccessful requests).

outstanding

For the sake of simplicity we have only coloured the shapes that are way above the blue  ‘expected’  regression line or are of interest; the remainder are grey.  The Metropolitan Police is the pink circle in the top right who  has received over 2500 requests and has 130 currently overdue.  It is below the blue line so this is in proportion to what is expected of a force of that size.

Avon & Somerset Constabulary  (blue), Dorset Police (orange), Essex Police (green), Greater Manchester Police (red), Humberside Police (lilac), Kent Police (purple) and Sussex Police (yellow) all seem to be offenders when it comes to not answering requests as they are high above the expected value and way above their peers.

Perhaps the Information Commissioner should start asking questions of these 7 police forces.

There needs to be a root and branch inquiry into the deliberate methods used by some policing authorities to undermine the FOI act. Unfortunately, the responses provided by the police officials who have responsibility for responding to requests are often quite remarkable in how creative and underhand they are at not providing information.

Below are some of the ways in which policing bodies delay and prevent the publication of information

  1.  Why respond promptly when you can reply on the 11th hour on the 20th day.
  2. Ignore the request completely.
  3. Claiming they didn’t understand the request
  4. Blatantly start counting the time allowed for a response from a date convenient to them 
  5. Wrongly declare the request requires an unreasonable allocation of resources.
  6. They decide at the beginning that they don’t want to give the information and only then seek inappropriate exemptions to justify the non-disclosure.
  7. Using one exemption to justify a refusal, then when challenged successfully, falling back on a different exemption.
  8. They provide lip service to any public interest test, and inevitably say it is not in the public interest to provide the information.
  9. Any internal review results in a foregone conclusion rubber stamp confirmation of their original refusal.  An internal review hardly ever corrects the wrong use of an exemption.
  10. Finally, they fall back on saying that they don’t have the information when they know full well they do.

Until these FOI departments understand the ethos of the Act they will carry on the abuse. We at IODPA have good reason to believe that the staff who work in the FOI offices of policing bodies are subjected to interference and pressure from senior people to refuse providing information.

Few members of the public realise that the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) run a ‘Central Referral Unit’ which, perhaps understandably, requires all policing bodies to alert the Unit to requests relating to security matters, firearms, witness protection and other sensitive topics. There are three categories flagged from Low to High. Interestingly, the Unit expects to be sent a copy of requests relating to information sent to and from a policing body to a national body – and the Home Office is given as the single example of such a national body.

We know, however, that some forces run to the Unit when they have a request they don’t like and seek advice on how to prevent giving out the information requested.

Policing, by its very nature, cultivates a culture of tight lips. Small wonder then that policing bodies find it hard to come to an understanding that providing information is a legal duty. The FOI Act provides ample protection to allow policing bodies to keep information from the public which we would all accept should be kept from the public. We also fully appreciate that some requests for information are far too detailed, ask for far too much information in one go, or are just rants about some topic or other. Such time-wasters are universal. All forces get them. So why do some policing bodies have a far worse record that do others when it comes to refusals? And why are policing bodies so very much worse than the NHS in handling and responding to requests?

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Merseyside and Avon & Somerset.  Liverpool and Bristol – the locations of 2 distinct police headquarters.  The Freedom of Information Act shines a light on how these public authorities operate.  Freedom of Information laws are important.  Of that there is no doubt.  They are important for public accountability and the equal treatment of all people under the rule of law.  They are important as an anti-corruption tool.  They are a mechanism to see the difference between how 2 police forces review their injury on duty pensioners.

Force Number of police officers Budget (millions) Area size (km²)
Avon and Somerset Constabulary 3302 248.9 4777
Merseyside Police 4516 307.3 645

Same Regulations, same decisions to be made.  Different results.

Between May 2014 and December 2015 Avon & Somerset has reviewed 16 people who left the force due to medical retirement and with an injury award.  Of the 16, shockingly only 9 have had a final decision – over a period of almost 2 years.

In a smaller time period, as discovered by a FOIA request, Merseyside has  performed 502 reviews in a single year.  Yes, you read that right.  502 in under 12 months.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/police_injury_pensions_117#incoming-742659

REQUEST RESPONSE
 

1. How many former officers of your force are in receipt of an injury pension, as per regulation B4 of the Police Pensions Regulations 1987 or regulation 11 of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006?

 

The number of former officers in receipt of an injury award is 880

 

 

2. The degree of disablement of a person in receipt of an injury pension may be reassessed or ‘reviewed’ from time to time. In the period January 1st 2011 to 31st October 2015, how many reviews of degree of disablement were held?

 

2011 – 0

2012 – 0

2013 – 0

2014 – 0

2015 – 502

 

 

3. What was the result of these reviews?  On a year by year basis, please express this as the total number of pensions increased, pensions decreased, or no amendment of pension paid.

 

477 – No Change   

  25 – Reduced  

    0 – Increased

 

 

4. On a year by year basis, how many notices of appeal to a Police Medical Appeal Board have been made in regard to injury pensions?

 

 

 

4 Notices of appeal , 3 withdrawn prior to appeal

 

Due to the low number of appeals no further breakdown will be supplied as this will engage S40 (2) Freedom of Information 2000 – Personal Information, this information could identify individuals concerned.

 

At the moment IODPA will stay neutral on the 25 that were reduced.  We will reaffirm our view that provision to hold reviews of degree of disablement – at appropriate intervals – is a sensible and necessary provision of the Regulations.  Whether or not the interval was appropriate for all 502 individuals in a single year is a moot point.

But how can one force finalise 502 and another finalise 9.  The answer is straightforward – Merseyside has apparently ‘considered whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered’ and to do this they have performed a paper-sift.

The Regulations do not allow for a full and fresh assessment to discover alteration.  It is enough to consider whether alteration exists, and end there if necessary, before going further and asking the medical questions of the extent of the change of degree of disablement and whether the change is substantial.

This is where Avon & Somerset have erred in Law – Bulpitt and his cronies  think that consideration is a full fresh assessment and that is why only 9 have decisions.  It takes a long time to revisit causation and perform an unlawful fresh calculation.  Erroneously and shamefully blaming the IOD for the delay because you’ve wrongly and without authority demanded medical records from birth doesn’t half make time fly.  Unsurprisingly, it takes much longer to deal with the appeals.

Conversely Merseyside has whizzed  through their IODs, for good or bad, because they have not forced all 502 in front of a selected medical practitioner.  They have considered whether it is appropriate before jumping in and committing themselves and the unfortunate IOD to the odious possibility of reliving all the facts of the injury and subsequent life since the last final decision.

 

 

Some PMAB Statistics

Some PMAB Statistics

“There are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
Benjamin Disraeli

A (probably false) attribution to Benjamin Disraeli by Mark Twain.  This comment was never valid. At least not in the direct meaning of the words. It is just a sarcastic statement. It’s true meaning is that it is very dishonourable to present statistical “facts” to convince others that are not aware of the context in what the statistic was derived.

Anyway, always suckers for all things with numbers, we have analysed the data published by the Home Office.  This data is a summary of the number of Police Medical Appeal Boards heard (not cancelled or withdrawn) by forces between November 2008 and October 2014 – so over a 6 year period.

PMABs heard

The above chart shows the number of PMABs by forces over the past 6 years.  In the spirit of Mark Twain it fails to put the count in context though.  You could look at it and pick-out who you think are the nasty Police Pension Authorities, those that are the main offenders of abusing their former officers; but without plotting the number of officers in each force you can’t tell if the PMABs that are heard are ‘as expected’ by a force of that size.

‘Expected’ is a bit of a loaded term – some forces have never had a PMAB so it could be argued that the expected number should be 0.  We live in an imperfect world though, and ‘expected’ in this sense means compared to its peers.

Anyway, moving on: is The Met, with over 70 PMAB hearings, an outlier perhaps due to its size?  Perhaps.

It does give you an idea of some of the possible culprits when you can clearly see…

  • Northumbria (the lair of Solicitor  Nicholas ‘IOD hater General’ Wirz),
  • West and North Yorkshire,
  • West Midlands (home of the National Attendance Management Forum),
  • Nottinghamshire,
  • South Wales

…up in the top tier.  These are the  forces you perhaps don’t want to be medically retired from if you are after a just decision.

Alternatively, Hertfordshire, Cumbria, Northamptonshire and Suffolk seem to do quite well in not forcing their injured former officers to seek appeals.

Now lets look at how everything compares by adding an extra variable – the number of police officers in each force.

pmabratio

The blue line is the number of PMABs expected by a force of any particular size over a 6 year period (remember that ‘expected’ is in relation to a peer group comparison and is not an ideal).

The grey boundary is the margin of error.  The points are the actual PMABs counts plotted by the number of officers.  For simplicity, in the above, the PMAB counts for each of the old Scottish forces have been combined and the relative point relates to the number of current  serving officers in Police Scotland (the exact point is the grey cross slap-bang  in the middle and within the grey boundary).

Any point above the grey boundary is an extremely zealous and nasty Police Pension Authority.  The grey crosses are OK insomuch that their PMAB numbers are roughly what is expected, hence those point markers that are not grey  crosses are not OK!  In other words, here you can see members of the nasty party in glorious techi-colour:

Derbyshire (blue circle),

North Yorkshire (orange cross),

Northumbria (green diamond),

Nottinghamshire (red square),

South Wales (purple inverse triangle),

West Midlands (brown triangle) and

West Yorkshire (pink circle).

These are all the forces who are infamous in their drive to push and bully their IODs into PMAB, the Pension Ombudsman and Judicial Review.

Finally lets see how many cases are being heard by a PMAB panels over time.

PMAB by year

Quite a reduction isn’t it?  In 13/14 there was just a third of PMABs compared to the number heard in 08/09.  This shows quite clearly that Police Pension Authorities have blatantly targeted IODs and it is only the result of Judicial Reviews, Pension Ombudsman decision and the Scoffield report that their ‘wings’ have been clipped. They still try it on but on a lesser scale – eager to bully but not to force another Judicial Review.  The Regulations have not changed so why the variation between forces and the variation over time!  Easily answered:  Police Pension Authorities think they are a law unto themselves.

There is no excuse for this – there should be uniformity and consistency in decisions and no single force (or group of forces) should be allowed to unilaterally undermine statutory legislation that is the Police Injury Benefit Regulations.

Data Analysed in RStudio https://www.rstudio.com/

Tell them everything or say nothing

Tell them everything or say nothing

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”
Elbert Hubbard

“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”
George Eliot, Impressions of Theophrastus Such

A person undergoing a DWP assessment for benefits needs to provide evidence they are still entitled to that benefit. If they don’t do this then the DWP investigator has the power to remove said benefit.

An Injury on Duty award isn’t a benefit and can not be removed. If there is substantial change in the degree of disablement then the award can be revised, but it can never be stopped. There is no investigator or benefit claim. Nothing can be revoked or cancelled. When a review is held a police pension authority is to consider the sole question of, ‘is there any substantial alteration?’ Only If there is evidence which indicates there may be a substantial alteration then must the authority refer for decision the question of degree of disablement to a duly qualified medical practitioner.

On their fishing trip to elicit a response from IOD pensioners, Avon & Somerset tried to bluff that if they didn’t disclose any information requested, (such as how many cars you drive!) then they could stop the injury award (which they can’t) or prosecute you for providing misleading or inaccurate information (which would be something they might well regret trying).

Here’s the nasty little threat they sent to vulnerable disabled former officers, all  of whom have to bear the burden of very severe disablement.

liable

This supposed threat of prosecution was queried with a FOI request:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/injury_on_duty_pensions_2#incoming-620913

The force provided a classic example of corporate blather in response.

“The statement has been on the questionnaire relating to injury awards since 2003 (arising from a meeting of the Attendance Management Group held on 9 October 2002). The statement reflects the details included in the questionnaires provided by Essex and Sussex Police at that time and agreed with the Federation in January 2003.

The statement is intended to clarify that there are possible consequences should a former officer either omit information which is relevant to the consideration of the injury award and/or purposely provides misleading information which could possibly be fraudulent.

If the statement is not signed, it does not halt the review process, but if the details were found be fraudulent due consideration would be given to the next appropriate steps. It may be helpful to note that this statement has never needed to be actioned to date.”

This sinister, and wholly unfounded threat came from a police force,  for crying out loud !!

Threatening injured former officers with an invented prosecution?

Why would any IOD pensioner think themselves obliged to cooperate with a HR Department that thinks it can treat people like this?

What do the Regulations say about not engaging with a review?

The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 Regulation 33

  1. If a question is referred to a medical authority under regulation 30, 31 or 32 and the person concerned wilfully or negligently fails to submit himself to such medical examination or to attend such interviews as the medical authority may consider necessary in order to enable him to make his decision, then

(a) if the question arises otherwise than on an appeal to a board of medical referees, the police authority may make their determination on such evidence and medical advice as they in their discretion think necessary;

(b) if the question arises on an appeal to a board of medical referees, the appeal shall be deemed to be withdrawn.

The interpretation of this is that if you deliberately don’t turn up for an assessment by the SMP then the force is allowed to make a decision based on such evidence and medical advice that they think is necessary.

That’s it. No reduction or suspension of injury award.

If you decide to attend for assessment by the SMP, but also decide to refuse to agree to full disclosure of medical records, back to birth, confining agreement to release of only records made since the last decision on degree of disablement, then you have complied, albeit with conditions.

The SMP and the force might not think you have been as cooperative as they wish.

In either circumstance – complete refusal to engage in what we know is a mockery of what should be a lawful process, or limited, conditional cooperation – then the force might, if they are daft enough, try to use regulation 33.

Their first problem though would be to satisfy the stringent test of ‘wilfully or negligently’. This is a high hurdle to jump and a hard condition to prove. How could any IOD pensioner be said to be wilfully or negligently refusing to engage with a process which he or she has very good reason to believe is unlawful? That is more than enough of a rational reason for refusal.

Their second problem would be trying to make a determination on such evidence and medical advice as they could obtain. The force seems to have lost or destroyed a lot of files and even if they have a full set most of them will contain information which has not been added to for many years. What evidence could there be of any alteration in degree of disablement?

The force can only use factual information – your notes when you retired for instance – to prove that there is a case for substantial alteration. They can’t pull a fresh assessment out of thin air as this inevitably revisits causation and apportionment and is forbidden. The High Court says so.

If there is no evidence of a substantial alteration in your degree of disablement then the status quo continues, no alteration means no revision of injury pension.

Instead of politely enquiring with pensioners whether their medical condition resultant from the duty injury had improved or worsened substantially over the intervening years since the last time degree of disablement was decided, the force thought it best to ask sneaky, irrelevant questions in the hope that it might provide cover for what was a predetermined decision to conduct a full review involving referral to a duly qualified medical practitioner.

When debating any issue, there is an implicit burden of proof on the person asserting a claim. An argument from ignorance occurs when either a proposition is assumed to be true because it has not yet been proved false (no evidence of change so the condition must have improved) or a proposition is assumed to be false because it has not yet been proved true.

This has the effect of shifting the burden of proof to the person criticizing the proposition, but is not valid reasoning.

You don’t have to tell HR or the SMP what car you drive, how you spend your day, what you submitted on your last HMRC return. The evidence required to determine alteration in degree of disablement is medical. If a SMP wants to know whether you are able to drive despite your disability, then he should ask you straightforwardly and not rely on information obtained under threat by the HR Department.

HR or the SMP have no power to try to get you to tell them your life story. What you did before the time of the last final decision is not relevant to the task in hand, which is only to look for any alteration in degree of disablement. What if the SMP takes an innocent comment out of context? You then find yourself fighting a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, and illogical game of trying to prove there is no alteration to your medical condition, whereas the burden of proof of any change is the responsibility of the SMP.

Just imagine, if you will, what might happen if you get notification that you will be reviewed. You might feel impelled to ask HR, why me? why now? What makes you think my condition has improved or worsened? Instead of an honest answer, namely that they intend to review everybody so as to try to see if they can save some money, you get the usual glib response from HR, claiming they have a right or a duty to review, blah, blah, blah. They are determined to review you and justifying their reason does not concern them. Giving a reason is not something we do. Don’t ask again or we will treat you as being vexatious, you cheeky bastard.  So you comply: you sign consent for partial disclosure of medical records. You might decide to refuse to answer their loaded questions on the questionnaire, for after all, you didn’t fill in a questionnaire when you were retired so how can they compare the here and now to the past with a new set of answers?

You then get a date to see a SMP. You turn up, wish the good doctor a pleasant hello and sit twiddling your thumbs. You answer whatever query of medical fact the doctor wishes to talk about but only concerning your medical records relating to duty injury and decline to answer anything you think is not relevant.

A review is not the Spanish Inquisition and an SMP is not supposed to behave like Tomas de Torqemada. It is not for you to prove you continue to qualify for the amount of injury pension you receive: it is for the force to determine whether or not there has been any alteration in your degree of disablement. It needs a substantial alteration before an injury pension can be revised.

It my well be that some of you think that full, unquestioning, cooperation is just fine – that you know you are not any better and you trust the SMP and HR and those that pull their strings to stick to the Regulations and case law and that everything will be just fine and dandy.

Sorry to say, that has not been the experience of most of the IOD pensioners who so far have been assessed by a SMP.  With the notable exception of those who saw Dr Jo Judge they all report abrasive and intrusive interviews, delving into areas which have nothing to do with determining whether there was any alteration. Most have not had a decision months after the event, and the SMP is trying to blame them for the delay.

So, it is up to you. Go along with a process which has about as much in common with a lawful review as does a rotten cabbage to a slice of apple pie, or give partial, conditional cooperation, or do you downright refuse to have anything to do with people who prefer to offer threats rather than ask honest questions, and who are happy to put you in front of a doctor who seems to know little about the Regulations and whose bedside manner would do justice to the little old ladies who used to knit as the guillotine did its grisly work.

What can they do if you refuse to cooperate? Downband you because they haven’t got any evidence that there is any substantial change and they feel you’ve been less then helpful? Not according to regulation 33 they can’t.

Pensioners accept that a police pension authority can hold reviews. But when reviews are not held lawfully, and when pensioners are not treated with dignity and respect, and are threatened and treated with contempt, then we need to remind ourselves that an injury pension is a right, enshrined in legislation, agreed by successive Governments, and is compensation for injury received on duty. It is not a State benefit, which we have to prove our continuing right to receive. It is part of the quid pro quo of police work. We readily put ourselves in harm’s way, and we held up our part of the bargain to the extreme extent of being damaged in body or mind, only to see some weasel with an eye on the balance sheet pressure ignorant and untrained HR types, and venal SMPs into abusing us, and the Regulations. Meanwhile, Nero fiddles as Rome burns.

The simple truth is that the drafters of the Regulations intended that reviews should only be held rarely – ‘at such interval as may be suitable’, is what they wrote. The status quo should be that no review is contemplated. When circumstances change, then a review might be appropriate. What we see in Avon and Somerset is a mind-set which thinks that a sizeable number of IOD pensioners are somehow not entitled to their pension, and that leads to the belief in certain quarters that no regard whatever need by given to the suitability or appropriateness of arranging a review in each individual instance, and no concern need be given to the health-damaging effects of putting vulnerable disabled people through the meat grinder of an unlawful process

Expiration of Consent

Expiration of Consent

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Often the occupational health file of a former officer contains disclosed medical records; records that were obtained via consent for a specific purpose, be it the original decision or the last review.  The GP medical records do not belong to the force – they were collated for a reason and should be disposed of once that reason has ended.  Does the force have the right to dip in and out of these medical records as they chose?

Here is a response from the Information Commissioner’s office regarding the limitations of consent:

Case Reference Number ENQ0571696

In your email you ask questions about third parties gaining consent to access your medical records from your GP.

Question: […] once consent is  given, is that consent infinite until explicitly withdrawn? In other words once consent is so given is the passage of time, whether that be days, weeks, months or years irrelevant ?.

ICO answer: Consent would need to gained with each request.

Question: […] once that consent has been given in writing for a third party (as above) to access a patients medical records, at the point those records are provided (accessed), does that specific consent then expire?

ICO answer: The consent would last until the records were accessed by the third party.

Question: To clarify that, can that given consent be exercised more than once or continuously ?

ICO answer:  Consent would need to be gained with every request.

Question: Would any request made now be considered a fresh request and any attempt to use a historical consent be denied ?.

ICO answer:  If there is going to be a new request for your medical data, consent would need to be gained.

Question: Would any registered medical practitioner be acting unethically if they made such a request based on an historical consent ?.

ICO answer:  A medical practitioner needs to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998(DPA) and could not use a historical consent.

Question:  Would the ICO position be if such a historical consent was attempted to be used or presented as being valid (despite the passage of time and previous access) that any registered medical practitioner should reject such a request as invalid and require a ‘fresh and current consent’ from the patient ?.

ICO answer:The GP would be required to gain consent upon every request.

Question: Any consent should be subject to informed consent and valid, a gap of years surely must be contrary to the original informed consent ?.

ICO answer: The third party need to obtain consent from yourself, every time they wish to access your medical records. Requesting consent every time would mean the third party would be complying to the first principle of the DPA. The first principle is about processing fairly and lawfully and with respect to one of the conditions outlined in the act.

To clarify, this means that an organisation must:

have legitimate grounds for collecting and using the personal data; not use the data in ways that have unjustified adverse effects on the individuals concerned; be transparent about how they intend to use the data, and give individuals appropriate privacy notices when collecting their personal data;handle people’s personal data only in ways they would reasonably expect; and make sure they do not do anything unlawful with the data.

Information Commissioner’s Office

That seems very unambiguous.  Once consent is given that consent  has to be timely and relevantly exercised; subsequently, new consent has to be obtained to allow for further use of the data.  So a force is unable to delve into the medical records enclosed in a occupational health file at their whim;  they are unable to approach a GP practice and ask for further disclosure using previous consent without expressly renewing the consent.

Some forces are under the misapprehension that once they have copies of medical records, they own the data and their access to it is then infinite.  This is incorrect.  To give a clear view of this mistaken belief, here is the fallacy of what Avon & Somerset thinks historical consent allows:

Police Medical Pensioners Medical Record Authority Timescale – a Freedom of Information request to Avon and Somerset Constabulary

In respect of Police medical pensioners. When an authority to release medical records from General Practitioners, specialists and consultants in relation to that Officer has been submitted to the Force, how long in timescale does that authority last? Is it days, weeks, months, or years. Please be specific.

Private Our Reference 089/15

Philip Piper Your reference

[1][FOI #249845 email] Date 17 February
2015

Dear Mr Piper

I write in connection with your request for information dated 23^rd
January concerning medical records.

Specifically you asked:

In respect of Police medical pensioners.
When an authority to release medical records from General Practitioners,specialists and consultants in relation to that Officer has been submitted o the Force, how long in timescale does that authority last? Is it days, weeks, months, or years. Please be specific.

The authority lasts until consent is withdrawn.

Yours sincerely

C Quartey

Freedom of Information Officer

Corporate Information Management Department

No it doesn’t Mr/Mrs C Quartey.  The consent lasts until the the records are accessed.  Once that access is completed then the consent expires.  Any decision made without valid permission for those records to be accessed is therefore unsound.

It is quite frightening that a Police Force has such disregard for data belonging to former officers.  What liberties is it taking with data of other members of the public?

An interesting point is raised if the review is unlawful for reasons given on earlier posts.  Here is an extract from the ICO’s website

In brief – what does the Data Protection Act say about handling personal data fairly and lawfully?

The Data Protection Act says that:

Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless –

(a) at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 is met, and

(b) in the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 3 is also met.

This is the first data protection principle. In practice, it means that you must:

  • have legitimate grounds for collecting and using the personal data;

  • not use the data in ways that have unjustified adverse effects on the individuals concerned;

  • be transparent about how you intend to use the data, and give individuals appropriate privacy notices when collecting their personal data;

  • handle people’s personal data only in ways they would reasonably expect; and

  • make sure you do not do anything unlawful with the data.

So if consent is provided and then the force revisits causation and applies apportionment then they are, by default, acting unlawfully.  The corollary is their unlawful action invalidates the consent.  This follows in revisiting previous disclosed medical records – if they try to look at any medical history prior to the last final decision they are contrary to the regulations, and not only is there no implied consent anyway the illegality is a block in the first instance.  The ICO is able to impose severe fines for such breaches.

The Denial of Information Act

The Denial of Information Act

It seems that Avon & Somerset Constabulary thinks that suspicion of wrong doing by a public body is not in the public interest and therefore any request on the topic of Injury on duty awards is vexatious.  Surprisingly that there has been disclosure up until now but now the questions are getting uncomfortable for them they no longer want answer any … something to hide perhaps?

It seems others are being thwarted by the doors being closure on the Freedom of Information Act.

Is an FOI request from an investigative journalist ever vexatious?

Last week, in the Court of Appeal, the indefatigable, if rather hyperbolic, Mr Dransfield was trying to convince three judges that his request, made long ago, to Devon County Council, for information on Lightning Protection System test results relating to a pedestrian bridge at Exeter Chiefs Rugby Ground, was not vexatious.

Here is what Avon & Somerset Police are saying upon refusing a request on the subject of IODs:

Your requests for information have been considered and I am now informing
you that for the following reasons the Constabulary is not obliged to
supply the information you have requested and will therefore not be
providing the information requested on this occasion.

The Constabulary is obliged under Section 17(5) of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000, when refusing to provide the information requested
to provide you with written confirmation (referred to as a “Notice” under
the Act) to explain that the request(s) have been refused and which
exemptions have been applied and why. This letter constitutes that
“Notice” and will in due course explain the reasons for refusal on this
occasion.

The Constabulary will not be providing the information requested, as your
requests are deemed vexatious by virtue of Section 14(1). Section 14(1) of
the Freedom of Information Act states: Section 1(1) does not oblige a
public authority to comply with a request for information if the request
is vexatious. The term ‘vexatious’ is not defined in the Act, but guidance
from the Information Commissioner outlines this as requests which cause an
undue burden and can be viewed as either obsessive, harassing to the
public authority or its staff, designed to cause disruption or annoyance
or is lacking any serious purpose or value.
For your information, the Information Commissioner has published guidance
with examples, concerning vexatious requests and I would suggest the below
as a useful reference should you wish to read more on this subject

[1]www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/library/freedom_of_information/detailed_specialist_guides/awareness_guidance_22_vexatious_and_repeated_requests_final.pdf

It is important in such matters to consider the wider picture.  Deciding
whether a request is vexatious is a balancing exercise, taking into
account the context and history of the requests. The key question is
whether the request is likely to cause distress, or disruption, without
any proper or justified cause.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary as you know, has commenced reviewing injury
on duty pensions.  These reviews have caused a great deal of concern
amongst those former officers currently receiving an injury on duty
pension, as this has the potential to affect their income.  Initially 16
former officers are due to be reviewed and after that it will be a rolling
programme of reviews.

These reviews have generated a great deal of interest from numerous
individuals.  Nearly all of these, like yours, have been generated via the
Whatdotheyknow website. The Constabulary has formed the opinion that the
flood of emails is a deliberate and orchestrated campaign against the
Force. Your request is one of 118 requests currently being processed by
the Constabulary. In total the Constabulary has received 189 such
requests, totalling 492 questions.

To date the Constabulary has been responding to requests of this nature.
However it is apparent each response is generating further questions, the
requests are all similar in nature, with some lacking any serious purpose
or value other than to overwhelm or harass the Constabulary.  In addition
to this a small number of other questions have also been posed by the same
individuals concerning seemingly un-associated subjects such as the
Freedom of Information process.  These are also considered to form part of
a campaign against the Force to cause disruption as the individuals
history only extends otherwise to IOD related questions in the recent
months.

We are experiencing significantly high volumes of requests at this time,
and even so these requests alone make up 49% of our current volume. This
has put a significant burden on the Constabulary. As you know there is a
legislative requirement to respond to requests within 20 working days. In
order to respond to these requests would adversely affect our ability to
meet the legal requirements for the other requests we are currently
dealing with.

The application of this exemption, under the terms of the Act is designed
to protect forces from requestors that abuse freedom of information in an
attempt to disrupt or impact on the delivery of public functions.  It is
the Constabulary’s opinion that the volume and frequency of these requests
show a clear intention to deliberately disrupt the Constabulary, imposing
a significant burden. These requests have become obsessive in nature.  Any
reasonable person would regard the volume and frequency of these requests
as harassing the authority, irrespective of whether that was personally
your intention.

There is a public interest in the public being assured that the force is
spending its funding wisely.  The Constabulary and the Police Crime
Commissioner each have a Chief Financial Officer who has a statutory role
under section 151 of the local government act 1972 Act that requires them
to have a fiduciary duty to local taxpayers to ensure that monies are used
efficiently and effectively.

The application of this exemption will not disadvantage those going
through the review process as they are able to direct any questions they
may have to the appropriate individuals. In addition there is information
already in the public domain concerning these reviews.

The most common theme of the Injury on Duty pensions requests received by
the Force are associated with the members of staff and independent Doctor
involved in the review process, for example requesting all email, written,
correspondence, diary appointments, qualifications of those individuals,
and in most cases, once the information is provided, numerous questions
about those disclosures are received from the same group of individuals,
similar or identical in wording. This information serves no public
interest, and is viewed that its only purpose is to disrupt the
Constabulary adversely affecting our ability to deliver public functions.
Our figures show a steady increase of these requests, and as the reviews
continue, there does not appear to be an end point. Although the Avon and
Somerset Constabulary is a relatively large organisation the size of the
organisation is not a reliable indicator of capacity in relation to
Freedom of Information. The requests are about a single topic which is
dealt with by a relatively small part of the organisation ie Human
Resources and Occupational Health. It is not a practical resolution for
these areas to be resourced to assist with the requests. In addition
occupational health files are confidential and only accessible by staff
from the unit – staff not connected with the unit cannot be given access
to them due to patient confidentiality. In some cases these are the files
that need or be accesses to provide the FOI responses.  Capacity is
therefore limited and cannot be expanded.

The ability of both HR and Occupational Health to perform their business
tasks has been undermined to the extent that service delivery has been
adversely affected.

As described above these requests have caused a disproportionate and
unjustified level of disruption, in that we will no longer be able to
respond to our other freedom of information requests within the
legislative timeframe. In addition the services provided by our Human
Resources department, Occupational Health, and Force Medical Advisor had
been inhibited as a result.  This most certainly is not in the public
interest.

As we believe that the vexatious criteria are met in this case, we will
not be responding to this or any further similar requests.  As per section
17(6) further refusal notices will not be issued.

Yours sincerely

C Quartey

Freedom of Information Officer

Corporate Information Management Department