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For journalists' eyes only

Martin Rosenbaum | 11:34 UK time, Thursday, 10 January 2008

If you're not a journalist, then you're not meant to read this.

For those of you who don't possess this high professional status, let me explain that it contains a Metropolitan Police background briefing about Joyce Vincent, the woman who lay dead in her flat for two years before her body was discovered. It features what are called 'press lines', the answers which Police press officers were instructed to give to questions journalists might have asked about the case.

The Met has sent it to me after the intervention of the Information Commissioner's Office (the BBC has complained to the ICO about the Met's rejection of an FOI request about Mrs Vincent) - but the Police say they're only giving it to me as I'm a journalist, since 'such lines are not disclosed following an enquiry by a member of the public'.

Of course we humble hacks do sometimes get privileged access to information, for which doubtless we are very grateful. But FOI isn't meant to work like that. So the Met state this is being done 'outside of FOI legislation'.

Now on current trends it may not be long before the entire population consists of citizen journalists, at which point these occupational distinctions will no longer matter. But meanwhile please don't look unless you should - my professional advantages are at stake.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:39 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Penyberth wrote:

Why am I not surprised by this response from the Police, clearly they believe they operate outside the FOIA, the ICO really needs to get to grips with the Police's interpretation of the FOIA.

  • 2.
  • At 07:59 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • PC Unhappy wrote:

Interesting to see Penyberth's comments on the Police Pay Protest and then complain about the Police handling of FOIA Reading between the lines I think he/she has a good idea about the Service. The Police have been praised by 2 Parliamentory Select Committee's on their handling of FOIA and dealing with 23000+ requets a years (20% of all request made under the Act) is not a bad statistic. With 75%+ ending in full or partial disclosure. I think the support from the ICO & Tribunal Decision Notices show that they are getting something about right.
As I am sure Penyberth will appreciate, they can't give everything out and the FOI Decision Makers across the UK are getting the balance about 'spot on'. I am sure they would be interested to hear what else people think they should give out...... things that would endanger peoples lives or undermine current or future investigative tactics. I don't think there is much Public Interest in that.

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