7 June 2015

Update: Cleveland Police on Speeding Police Vehicles

It has been a long time since we last updated FOI By Proxy, but readers might remember we entered into dialogue with Cleveland Police on the subject of police vehicles caught speeding during routine, non-emergency calls.

You can read Cleveland Police's full response in our earlier post, but we considered one case - that of a police vehicle clocked at 64 mph in a 30 mph zone - worthy of further investigation. That incident took place on Redcar Lane, Redcar and the driver of the vehicle faced no further action. Had an ordinary motorist been clocked at more than twice the legal speed limit, then that person would have almost certainly been summoned to court and received a driving ban if convicted.

On 24th December 2014, the same day Cleveland Police provided its response to our original request, we sent this follow-up: "Please provide all information held by Cleveland Police about this particular speeding incident. This includes, but is not limited to, any document, correspondence or handwritten note that mentions or relates to this particular speeding incident. It also includes relevant images captured by the speed camera at the time and location of this speeding incident."

A few days later Cleveland Police wrote back explaining that the vehicle was on a "live" police operation and asking if we still required a full response, which we did.

On 16th January 2015 Cleveland Police provided its full response, which reiterated earlier comments that the vehicle was on a "live" police operation. According to Cleveland Police, the fact the vehicle was engaged in a "live" police operation meant it was exempt from the normal speed limits. Cleveland Police is correct with that observation.

Cleveland Police refused to provide any other information about the speeding incident, citing the exemption given in section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. In particular, it is Cleveland Police's argument that releasing the information requested could be prejudicial to the prevention/detection of crime, or the apprehension/prosecution of offenders.

Given this event happened at least 4 years ago (probably closer to 5 years ago), we are confused as to how Cleveland Police can possibly argue that the requested information could have any bearing at all on criminal proceedings at the time of our request. That being the case we requested an internal review.

Scroll forward 6 months and, despite several prompts, we have still not received an internal review response from Cleveland Police. Last week we received a rather flustered email from a Cleveland Police's Head of Legal Services apologising for the delay, but indicating her intention to uphold the original refusal notice. It is pretty clear to us that Cleveland Police had hoped we'd forgotten about the internal review request. Equally apparent is Cleveland Police's reluctance to release the information requested, instead choosing to rely on tenuous exemptions within the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Could it be, perhaps, that Cleveland Police is trying to hide the fact that bosses have turned a blind-eye to the abysmal driving of one of its officers? We certainly wouldn't be surprised it that was the real reason behind Cleveland Police's delay and obfuscation.

We look forward to receiving the outcome of our internal review request shortly and you can be sure we'll publish it here.

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