Our amended FOIA request (attached below) to the Metropolitan Police about the number of applications and authorisations, arrests and charges, under sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 has again been rejected, on the grounds that even this cut down request, would still take more than 18 hours to comply with, just like our original FOIA request.
Following a phone conversation with the Metropolitan Police records people, the reasons that even this amended request would, apparently take so long, is interesting, and has implications for any FOIA requests to the Metropolitan Police for any crime statistics.
Apparently in order to determine how many arrests or charges there have been over a specific time period, for a specific offence, under any legislation, the Metropolitan Police would need to "look in over 100 places" on their computer systems.
Details of the actual reasons for an Arrest, or the details of any actual Charges, are, apparently, stored in free text fields on their computer systems, and so this information is not easily automatically cross-referenced - no Google search engine for the Metropolitan Police records, by the looks of things !
There does not appear to be a centralised criminal charge booking system, each Borough within the Metropolitan Police does its own.
We have been advised that sending an FOIA request to each Borough, would be interpreted as a "campaign" and the "vexatious requests" Exemption from the FOIA would then apply.
Our only hope of getting what should be the relatively simple information, on what appears to be less than a dozen arrests and/or charges under sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crimes and Police Act 2005, wouild be to submit the request to Westminster Borough Division (most of the Designated Area around Parliament Square) , and then, perhaps a month later to Lambeth Borough which covers the London Eye etc, on the south/east bank of the Thames.
Similarly, our "simple" request for the number of Written Applications for Permission to Demonstrate, and the number of Authorisations by the Commissioner (with ot without attached Conditions), is not handled by a single desk at, say, the Public Order Operational Command Unit, but by each of the Borough Operational Command Units (BOCU). The badly draughted SOCPA legislation allows for Applications to "the Commissioner for Police of the Metropolis", to be sent by recorded delivery postal mail, or to be handed in at any Police Station in the Metropolis.
Therfore again, any search of their records, London wide, involves each of the BOCU, all 34 of them, plus Applications sent to the New Scotland Yard HQ. Even if it only takes about half an hour to deal with an FOIA request at each BOCU, then the "18 hour" limit is almost certain to be breached.
Given the billions of pounds spent on the Metropolitan Police's IT systems over the years, and the insatiable demand for crime statistics by the Home Office, it does seem extraordinary, that the system should be so fragmented, and that a free text search engine has not been installed.