It would be easier to sympathise with Merseyside police if they did not keep referring people who want facts to inaccurate newspaper reports.
The website Wirral In It Together lodged a Freedom of Information request with the force on August 2, regarding the incident in which Angela Eagle had alleged that a brick had been thrown through her office window by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.
(We know now that the broken window lit a communal stairwell, not Ms Eagle’s office, which was on another side of Sherlock House in Wallasey; whether a brick was used or not is debatable, as are other elements of the story.)
The request ran as follows:
“Please confirm the following:
“1. Did your officers visit the Sherlock House location to gather evidence?
“2. What was the physical nature / description / material of the projectile apparently thrown through and breaking the bottom left pane of the 12 shared stairwell windows on the ground floor of the north eastern elevation of Sherlock House on either 11th or 12th July 2016? i.e. was it a brick or a rock or a stone or something else? Please describe.
“3. Do you have in your possession the projectile (brick or rock or stone or something else) that was reported to have been thrown by an unknown person and was later described in several local and national newspapers as ‘a brick’ thrown through a window?
“4. Was there any evidence to suggest that the constituency office or office window of Angela Eagle MP on the ground floor of the south eastern elevation was subjected to an attack during the same time period?
“5. Did you conclude after gathering evidence that the attack dated 11th or 12th July 2016 was confined to the shaired stairwell on the north east elevation of the building, and that the office or office window of Angela Eagle MP was not attacked given the nature of the evidence gathered?”
Merseyside Police confirmed that they had visited Sherlock House, but declined to supply further information, quoting the following exemptions from the FoI Act 2000: Section 30 (Criminal investigations and proceedings) and Section 21 (Information reasonably accessible to the applicant by other means).
The claim was that the fourth and fifth questions could be answered by referring to a Daily Mail article – not exactly the most accurate source of information in the world!
After the website requested an internal review, the police revised their response to place all the remaining information requested behind the s30 exemption.
But this only works to protect the investigation and confidential sources.
There is no evidence to suggest that divulging the nature of the projectile that broke a window in Sherlock House would harm the investigation or a confidential source, or that admitting whether the police had it would harm the investigation.
There is reason to suspect that speculation in the papers has misled the general public as to the nature of the incident.
The investigation is into a crime of criminal damage against a window at Sherlock House. It would not be prejudiced if the police confirm that Ms Eagle’s constituency office window was not damaged (we know it wasn’t anyway).
Nor would it be prejudicial to confirm that Ms Eagle’s office was not attacked in any way, if that is the case. Such information would not be relevant to the investigation.
So, one is led to ask: Why are the police being so cagey about a broken window onto a stairwell?
This time the Section 30 exemption still stands on points 2 and 3, but the ridiculous Section 21 response (asking us to look for the information in the Daily Mail) has been dropped on points 4 and 5.
Instead Section 30 has been used to sweep up points 2 to 5 and store all the information safely out of sight of the public behind a virtual ‘padlocked door’.
This time Merseyside Police included the following line of advice:
By searching on the internet using the search words Angela Eagle office attack or similar a volume of news items about the incident will be found
So this time, it’s not a particular story in the Daily Mail. We’re being referred to the very opposite of ‘specific’ i.e. the whole of the internet.
I tried this and found it to be a very good example of how ‘lies become truth’. Reader, follow the police advice and try a Google Images search for “Angela Eagle Office Attack”. You will NOT be given images of her office window. In their place will be … images of a stairwell window on a different side of the building, a direct result of the UK press and media reporting falsehoods as truth
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