The curious case of the Police Service of Scotland email that never was.

Early last year the FAC committee decided (for the umpteenth time) that they would organise a fundraising social.  The date was picked and the venue was selected…..and that was as far as it got: no band booked, no advertising, nothing. 

As it drew nearer to the chosen date it was obvious that the event was not going ahead.  However, early in July the venue was approached by a police constable from the Licensing Division at London Road to say that he was aware that a ‘Green Brigade’ function was due to take place and implied that this was a problem and that they would like staff to keep the informed – all secret squirrel like.

On hearing this one of the committee, Jeanette Findlay, called London Road to ask what the issue was.  She was told ‘There was no issue’ and if there had been, she would have been ‘pulled in’ (!), that this was ‘routine’ and that the Police Service of Scotland Licensing division routinely collect information about social events such as 18th and 21st Birthday parties taking place in their area.

Leaving aside his manner and whether anyone would believe this story, Jeanette asked how he knew about the event.  She was asked, in turn , ‘What is the problem with us knowing about it?’.  She replied ‘There is no problem at all with you knowing about it but how did you know about it?’.  She was told that it came in the form of ‘an email from a senior/superior officer.  She asked for this officer’s name and was told that he was not going to tell her anything as he ‘didn’t know who she was’.

She offered to come down to London Road to introduce herself but he instead said he would speak to his supervisor and get back to her.  He duly did, later that day, and repeated the line that this was normal behaviour and that the information had come from a ‘third party’.  Jeanette asked if this was a third party external to the PSoS or internal to it.  The PC declined to answer and seemed decidedly anxious and shifty at that point.

Following discussions in the FAC committee, Jeanette submitted an FoI request to PSoS asking for the email, any notes of any phone call or any notes of any meeting which related to the event of which she had been one of the organisers.  The response, given in August 2014, was that she was not entitled to a copy of the email.  Having taken further advice from the Scottish Information Commissioner she asked for the decision to be reviewed and clarified that she did not need a copy of the actual email but simply who it was from, who it was sent to, and what it contained.

The review, completed in September 2014 confirmed the original decision so we referred it to the Scottish Information Commissioner for a decision in terms of 47(1) of FOISA.  That decision notice has now been issued (Decision 025/2015 18 February 2015) which should be available shortly at; http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/ApplicationsandDecisions/Decisions/Decisions.php

The Decision upholds the complaint and finds that the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland failed to comply with Part 1 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 in responding to the information request made by Jeanette Findlay. However, that is not the interesting part dear readers!

The lengthy communications (‘several’) between PSoS and the SIC’s office (September 2014 to February 2014) culminated in them ‘eventually’ confirming that ‘they held no recorded information that fell within the terms of (the) request: indeed it transpires  ‘there had never been any email concerning the event she had organised’. The Decision Notice, indicates ‘The Commissioner cannot comment on why Ms Findlay was informed that the source of the information about her event was an email, when this turns out not to be the case’.

So there we have it.  Yet again, and in line with Stephen House’s shenanigans around Stop and Search statistics, we find that someone within PSoS is lying.  So the following questions remain:

  • Did the PC lie when he said he’d had an email from another officer?
  • Did PSoS lie when they said there was no email?
  • How did PSoS come to find out about the event that never was?
  • …and having found out, why did they seek to interfere with it and mislead the venue staff as to who was organising it?

I think another complaint to PSoS will be arriving soon.

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