Thursday, 31 October 2013

A Game of Shadows... part 2

It seems as though it will be nigh on impossible to discover the identity of the person responsible for sending the police to my doorstep on Tuesday evening.

The Essex Police Data Protection office was as helpful as a bunch of jobsworths can be and the experience has shone a light on a strange and, quite frankly, stupid state of affairs regarding cross-border policing between different police forces.  I had asked for the procedure for getting the full details of the incident that had two Essex Police officers knocking at my door enquiring about my mental state following a reported ‘concern’ from someone in the Metropolitan Police area.  I was told to fill in an A95 form to request the information from the Essex Police but that I would probably have to get the information regarding the Metropolitan Police end of the inquiry because Essex Police would not have access to it.

I don’t know about you but, if there was a criminal that was operating across jurisdictional borders, I would hope that there would be some system of information sharing in place to aid the investigations on both sides of the jurisdictional border.  I can envision a serial rapist or murderer being able to continue a long running campaign of terror across two police jurisdictions just because the two police forces in question weren’t talking to one another and that is not a state of affairs I’m happy with at all.  I was, however, informed that I might be able to get the reports written by the two Essex Police officers from the Metropolitan Police Data Protection office as it is possible that they would be sent to the Metropolitan Police officer who instigated the chain of events.

I was in the process of looking up the A95 form on Essex Police’s website while I tried to get through to the Metropolitan Police Data Protection office and explain the situation to them when I was given the Metropolitan Police’s version of what I had been told by Essex Police.  I was also surprised to discover, having found the form, that a charge of £10 was being levied on getting the information.  I was incensed at the idea of having to pay £10 for information that is essentially about me from a publically funded organisation and that the amount would most likely be doubled as I would have to apply for the information I wanted from each police force individually.  I said I was appalled at this charging for information that regards me and ended the ‘phone call, saying that, quite rightly, I don’t have the money to throw around on such a venture.

I contacted the Independent Police Complaints Commission to complain about not being able to get the information I require and that, essentially, this was allowing a crime – that of wasting police time – to go unprosecuted.  I was informed that there was nothing the IPCC could do to help me and that, even if I were to pay the £10 or £20 to the respective police forces, I would probably not be given the name of the person who contacted the Metropolitan Police in the first place.  The person on the ‘phone gave me the telephone number of the office of the Information Commissioner so I could explain the problem to them in the hope that they may be able to help.

I shouldn’t have bothered calling the Information Commissioner as the lady on the ‘phone confirmed that the information would not include the name of the person who started the ball rolling in the first place.  This obviously angered me and, during a very long and circular conversation, I pointed out that meant that the person who made the slanderous attack on my mental state (as that is how I view it, seeing as how anyone who knew me would have contacted me and not the police if they were worried about me and those who know me from my online activities have been given no reason to suspect me of being in a crisis) could hide behind the Data Protection Act to make a personal attack on me and get away with it – how very un-British.  I pointed out that this situation meant that my legal right to face my accuser (as that is how I view the complainant) was being ignored and that the crimes of slander and wasting police time would therefore remain unpunished.  All the woman kept doing was repeating that all she could do was explain the situation through the lens of the Data Protection Act, even when I asked her to stop thinking about the implications of the organisation she worked for and give me her personal opinion on my assertion.  Eventually I just slammed the ‘phone down knowing that the woman was just another jobsworth.

So, in all, I have come to the conclusion that, even if I pay for the privilege, I am unlikely to find out who called the police on me although I don’t think regular readers would have to look to far on this blog to find the odd potential culprit.  My legal and moral right to be able to face my accuser is obviously not as strong as an attacker’s right to anonymity and it really makes me sick.

How can we have allowed this legal quagmire to have developed?  How could we have allowed a piece of legislation that is meant to protect an individual’s personal information from also be used to conceal the identity of a slanderer?  Does this mean that the justice system cares more about the perpetrator of slander than the harm caused to the victim of said slander?

I think the different police forces should look at their cross-jurisdictional working practices and that the Data Protection Act should be looked at so that slanderers won’t go unpunished for their crime.

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