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R (Pewter) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis




QBD (Admin) 3/12/2010; LTL 3/12/2010

2010-12-08

Interested Party: Secretary of State for Justice 

Summary from Lawtel:

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW - POLICE

ACCESS TO INFORMATION : DISCLOSURE : INDEPENDENT POLICE COMPLAINTS COMMISSION : MULTI-AGENCY PUBLIC PROTECTION ARRANGEMENTS : PRISONERS : PUBLIC INTEREST IMMUNITY : REPORTS : MULTI-AGENCY PUBLIC PROTECTION ARRANGEMENTS REPORT : POLICE OFFICER'S INADVERTENT DISCLOSURE OF PUBLIC INTEREST IMMUNITY DOCUMENT : EFFECT OF DISCLOSURE ON PUBLIC INTEREST IMMUNITY STATUS : FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 : s.40(5) FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

A police officer's inadvertent disclosure of a prison assessment report, which attracted public interest immunity by virtue of being part of the multi-agency public protection arrangements scheme, was not capable of interfering with the report's public interest immunity status.

The claimant serving prisoner (P) applied for judicial review of a decision of the defendant commissioner refusing to provide him with a report prepared under the multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA). P had been convicted of rape and was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment with a four-year extended licence period. A prison assessment report, prepared pending P's release, stated that his behaviour had been generally positive but that he had not accepted full responsibility for his actions. Consequently, P was subject to the MAPPA regime. P did not contest that the input of the agencies was subject to public interest immunity. The Public Protection Unit (PPU) for the area where P was to live upon being released notified P's estranged wife and daughter of his release. P's wife expressed concern as they were going through matrimonial proceedings and she did not wish to be present at court when P was there. She requested assistance from the PPU and a detective constable wrote a letter to her solicitors which amongst other things stated that P had intimidated staff and inmates whilst in prison. The letter was used by P's wife at court. After unsuccessfully trying to acquire a copy of the report, P made a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) that the detective constable had acted in bad faith, as the impression given was misleading to the court and inconsistent with the prison assessment report. The detective inspector who dealt with the complaint concluded that the observations within the letter were fact and that there had been no breach of the police discipline code or the criminal code. P was advised of his right of appeal. He did not appeal as he had no faith in the IPCC appellate process. Instead, he wrote a letter to the detective constable asking to see a copy of the report. The detective inspector responded stating that the information requested was outside of his remit. P's query was referred to the Information Commissioner who responded stating that the information requested was exempt from the Freedom of Information Act 2000 by virtue of s.40(5). P did not challenge that conclusion. Before receiving the Information Commissioner's letter P had written stating that he would accept a redacted copy of the information. He received a holding letter but no substantive response. The defendant commissioner submitted that P's application for judicial review was premature and that he should have appealed the IPCC decision first. P submitted that although the report was subject to public interest immunity, because part of it had been disclosed its immunity had been stripped away and therefore in balancing the interests of justice and the protection of confidential information, the balance had tipped in favour of disclosure.

HELD: (1) The fact that P had not had sight of the report and did not have confidence in the IPCC’s appellate process was not reason enough to short-circuit the regime. He had used it previously to review the decision of the detective constable without having had sight of the report. Prior to coming to court P should have appealed the IPCC’s decision. The IPCC might have upheld the detective inspector’s decision but P would not know that until appealing. (2) The detective inspector had reached the correct conclusion, but it was clear that the detective constable had wrongly disclosed certain information. However, his wrongful disclosure of that information and effective placement of it into the public domain could not affect the report’s public interest immunity status, Rogers v Secretary of State for the Home Department (1973) AC 388 HL followed.

Application refused
Counsel for the interested party: Simon Murray