Home Office considering the Public Interest Test until 4th August 2010 - repeated FOIA request for Terrorism Act 2000 s44 Authorisation durations and geographical extent

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[Home Office logo]

Office for Security and Counter Terrorism
2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF
E-mail: OSCTFOI@homeoffice.x.gsi.gov.uk Website: www.homeoffice.gov.uk

{email address]#ho_foia@nym.hush.com


FOI Reference: nnnnn

6 July 2010

Dear [XXXX],

Thank you for your e-mail of 11 June 2010, in which you ask for details of stop and search authorisations under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Your request is being handled as a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We are considering your request. Although the Act carries a presumption in favour of disclosure, it provides exemptions which may be used to withhold information in specified circumstances. Some of these exemptions, referred to as 'qualified exemptions', are subject to a public interest test. This test is used to balance the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in favour of withholding the information. The Act allows us to exceed the 20 working day response target where we need to consider the public interest test fully.

The information which you have requested is being considered under the exemptions in sections 24 and 31 of the Act, which relate to information supplied by or relating to national security and law enforcement. These are qualified exemptions and to consider the public interest test fully we need to extend the 20 working day response period. We now aim to let you have a full response by 4 August 2010.

If you have any questions about the handling of your information request then please do not hesitate to contact us quoting the reference nnnn

Yours sincerely,

{name of civil servant]

N.B. our FOIA request re-emphasised that we are not requesting any information from the background or tactical intelligence, which may have been submitted to the Home Secretary in order to justify the supposedly temporary suspension of the normal laws on stop and search in a particular area, so there does not need to be any "public interest test" under the FOIA section 24 national security exemption.

Such background intelligence may well be necessary to make a reasonable decision as to whether to grant or deny an Application by a Chief Constable for Section 44 extraordinary powers, but that is not mentioned in the wording of the Terrorism Act 2000,. This Act only specifies that the Application has to include time, duration and location data and that it has to requested by someone of the appropriate rank i.e. Chief Constable / Commissioner of Police or their Deputies.

Surely, since hundreds or thousands of people may have been illegally stopped and searched, not just once or twice, but dozens of times, as the Home Office has now admitted, the public interest balance in favour of disclosure must also apply under the FOIA section 31 law enforcement exemption.


Ministerial Statement to the House of Lords:
Terrorism: Stop and Search
10 June 2010

by Baroness Neville-Jones the Minister of State (Security) at the Home Office,

HL Deb, 10 June 2010, c66WS


The number of such stupid errors would have been vastly reduced or even totally eliminated, if the Home Office had published the times, durations and location of each application of the extraordinary, supposedly temporary, section 44 stop and search without reasonable cause powers., simply because members of the public, the press and the lower rank and file of of the Police forces themselves, would have acted as a check on the handful of secretive slap dash bureaucrats and politicians who messed things up, over and over again.

If they had been open and transparent by publishing the information requested in our FOIA request, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg could not have ruled against the Labour Government and the Home Office, in the CASE OF GILLAN AND QUINTON v. THE UNITED KINGDOM:

87. In conclusion, the Court considers that the powers of authorisation and confirmation as well as those of stop and search under sections 44 and 45 of the 2000 Act are neither sufficiently circumscribed nor subject to adequate legal safeguards against abuse. They are not, therefore, "in accordance with the law" and it follows that there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.

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This United Kingdom based blog has been spawned from Spy Blog, and is meant to provide a place to track our Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to United Kingdom Government and other Public Authorities.

If you have suggestions for other FOIA requests,  bearing in mind the large list of exemptions, then email them to us, or use the comments facility on this blog, and we will see  what we can do, without you yourself having to come under the direct scrutiny of  "Sir Humphrey Appleby" or his minions.

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