On the importance of transparency…

Apparently the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act, heralded a number of courses and seminars offered to government departments on how to defeat ‘hostile’ attempts to access previously difficult to get at information. Jim Gibney demonstrates its potential, in bringing us gain access to statistics on a range of arrant behaviours of on and off duty policemen. It is precisely this transparency is key to bolstering democracy and make politicians (not to mention civil servants) answerable to the wider citizenry. Contrary to Gibney’s argument, we need more questions, not less.

Update: Seems Jim got the FoI figures from the Belfast Telegraph.

  • Shore Road Resident

    It simply beggars belief that a Shinner could miss the mote in his own eye when writing an article like this.
    Any chance of putting in a Freedom of Information request on the IRA’s internal disciplinary procedures?

  • missfitz

    Am I missing a link, or did you have some source for intimating that the CS offered courses on how to ward off enquiries under FOI?

    I was at some of the training for FOI, and believe me, it was taken openly and honestly. In fact a great issue was made of being relaxed and not feeling that any documents had to disappear.

    I havent heard of anyone yet who has felt they didnt get the information they needed, is there a case for this?

  • Mick Fealty


    “offered to” is the operative part of that post… Though I know that at least one NI ministry promises a return within 28 days, also has a policy of taking 28 days regardless of the nature of the request…

  • missfitz

    OK Mick
    I read the post to imply that there was a purposeful obfuscation in accepting these requests.

    Again, from the seminars I attended, we were always told that there was a very fierce Ombudslady in post who would come down like a ton of bricks on any non compliance, and there was a big push to make sure that all requests would be complied with.

    One little fact I can probably relate without finding SB on the doorstep would be that some departments were prepared for a deluge of requests, but this did not happen. Some folk may have thought that this would have been a good opportunity for mischief making (loads of requests at one time) but this did not happen either.

    As to taking 28 days if you can take 28 days? Um… human nature? I know if I have something due at 4, it wont be ready at 3!

  • Mick Fealty

    But why set a policy of taking 28 days if, as in the case of some local authorities, the information can be emailed within 48 hours?

    I’m not surprised there has not been a deluge. It is going to take a while before people realise what kind of information is available – and more importantly how to get it.

    For the reasons set out above, it is an unerringly good thing to make government visible and accountable.

  • missfitz

    Ach Mick, they didnt come up the Farset in a basket. Every single interested party in the land knew about FOI and was poised. Maybe the reality is that either we all dont know what to ask for or there arent any institutionalised secrets.

    There was a big rush in the beginning, and a lot of stuff came out, but what I am saying is that once the first flush is gone, theres not much left.

    Unless someone finds “the big one”, and we can all dream of that.

    BTW, hope you enjoyed your time off!

  • topdeckomnibus

    FOI ?

    I have just applied to issue High Court proceedings against Suffolk Police. At issue is the case of the death of Matron Mary McGill at the HQ Care Home of Sue Ryder and Leonard Cheshire Cavendish Suffolk.

    The inquest sat without the knowledge of family and friends. only a part autopsy procedure was carried out. cremation occurred before her family discovered the truth … Leonard Cheshire and Sue Ryder saying, according to the McGill family, “Let the McGills find out from the newspapers like everyone else”.

    The only reason I have evidence is that Mary was a New Zealand citizen. In March 1972 the NZ Govt approached the Home Office to re-open the inquest. But were fobbed off. The report sent to the NZ Govt about suffolk Police handling of the case allagedly lied even attributing one lie to HM Coroner.

    If Mary had been a British citizen I would have got nowhere in gathering evidence.

    Why were Special Branch allagedly monitoring and corrupting police inquiries into the Sue Ryder and leonard Cheshire organisations ?

    Who were the 1200 men allagedly released from German postwar custody in 1971 by Airey Neave and Sue Ryder ?

    What did Regional Crime Squad discover about allaged GP death registration malpractice and allaged identity theft ?

    My own service record has been something of a pimpernel over the years at Suffolk Police HQ

    They seek it here they seek it there they claim it disappeared
    They seek it here they seek it there they claim it reappeared
    They seek it here they seek it there and claim some parts are gone
    Happily existing some sheets which sing their song

    The position of Suffolk Police, as I understand it, seems to be that they willrest on arguing statute bar. In other words they may have committed criminal libel against me in 72 but reckon I only had until 73 to take action.

    They are refusing to disclose, refusing to respect pre action protocol and refusing to enter High Court mediation.

    FOI ? If only …..