Thu, 11 Feb 2010

Home Office: five equals four

The Home Office sent a letter to MPs sitting on the Committee scrutinising the Crime and Security Bill 2009-10 describing five case studies allegedly supporting their arguments for retention of the DNA profiles of innocents. It turns out that two of these five cases studies are one and the same! From the description of this letter by Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Brokenshire during the Committee stage, the error should have been easily spotted by anyone reading the details of the letter and not just stopping at the number of cases included. After the irrelevant Jill Dando Institute research based on a few days of data and disavowed by the Institute's 'you might as well just stick your finger in the air and think of a number' director, the ACRO research that 'does not provide evidence to inform the length of any general DNA retention period', the many cases mentioned where retention of the individual profiles made no difference, comes the duplicated case in a document describing only fivefour cases:

James Brokenshire: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point about the interrelationship between other evidence, other more general policing issues and the data that might be available. [Interruption.] Before I give way to the Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, I should like to refer to case study 5.

In 2006 a Dutch male was arrested on suspicion of robbery. This was investigated and his DNA was taken before he was released without charge. In 2008 that same male was further arrested for rape after being identified by the victim. The DNA crime scene samples taken at the time were found to match the suspect’s DNA profile, already held on the national DNA database, and he was later tried and convicted in court. Abdirahman Ali Gudaal was Dutch. He was arrested for robbery in 2006. He was said to have raped somebody in 2008. I therefore submit that case studies 1 and 5 are one and the same case. Could the Minister look into that? It seems strange that two Dutch people were arrested for robbery in 2006, committed a rape in 2008 and were subsequently convicted.

James Brokenshire: [...] Now that we have had our lunch break, is the right hon. Gentleman able to respond to a point that I raised in relation to the case studies that he cited in the letter that was handed to the Committee? He did not seem to disagree with my comment that case study 5 and case study 1 might be one and the same case. That is quite important because obviously the letter has been put before the Committee. The facts in case study 5 are quite limited, and I made my assumption based on the limited facts. I do not know whether the Minister has sought clarification over the lunch break. Perhaps he can respond on that point.

Mr. Hanson: I will happily cover that point now, in an intervention. Having checked the matter, I can say that case study 1 and case study 5 are the same case. One reason why there is some difficulty is that we have been seeking to ensure that we get victim approval when victims’ names are put into the public domain. Every name that I have mentioned in my contributions has had the victim’s approval of it being put into the public domain. There was some confusion over those cases. I will clarify the matter if necessary by letter for the Committee, but we have many more cases that we have permission to use, and I will do so during the debate.

Deliberate misleading or incompetence? The Home Office must be pretty desperate.

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Wed, 10 Feb 2010

Leafing through an IPCC case file

IPCC disclosed documents A correspondent, who also went through the process of complaining to the Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC), suggested on several occasions that I request my IPCC case file by sending a Data Protection Act subject access request. I followed his advice and I sent a request on 2009-11-04. The act specifies that the organisation must respond within forty days, however the IPCC has only two staff dealing with all the Freedom of Information and Data Protection requests they receive, and obviously this means requests can end up delayed. The IPCC press office contact page lists six phone numbers indicating that the budget to manage information they want to make public must be much bigger than that for the department providing information that people do want and ask for. (Heather Brooke found that police 'forces spend nearly ten times more on PR (what police want us to know) than on FOI (what we want to know).')

The request was completed today. I received two bundles of A4 pages each stapled in the top left corner : one approximately 21 mm thick of 'documents received by the IPCC from the Metropolitan Police Service', and the other, 16 mm thick, composed of IPCC correspondence and some more MPS documents. The cover letters explain that these are all the documents that 'you are entitled to receive under the provisions of the Data Protection Act contained in your IPCC case'. 'The documents have been redacted under section 7(4)(a) of the Data Protection Act' and documents containing legal advice are not included as 'these documents are exempt from disclosure under schedule 7 paragraph 10 of the Data Protection Act 1988.' The amount of redactions means someone must have spent days blacking out the documents. Some of the redactions are over-zealous. For instance some of the questions the officer who conducted the search of our flat asked my wife are redacted in his witness statement but included in the copy of his scene notes. There are no page completely blacked out, but there are pages obviously missing, possibly because they've been entirely redacted.

Many documents I had not seen. Some make for very interesting reading, especially the statements my solicitor tried to obtain in vain during our civil action against the police. Here are a couple of highlights spotted in the little time I've spent so far browsing through.

Below are a few extracts from the statement of a DS. This transcript is 49-long with page 1 and 49 missing.

[...] get a phone call to say man coming in for terrorism, suspected terrorism. [...] He's been arrested for public nuisance, I said 'he should be arrested for terrorism then'. I was told that the Superintendent doesn't want terrorism on the custody record in case it frightens people. Go in there, see the fella standing at the counter speaking to the PS, officers are giving the facts for public nuisance, custody officer accepts the facts, my remit was is this man a terrorist. It was said to me then that Mr Mery should have his clothing taken, white suit and hands bagged, all the things, I said 'he needs to be arrested for terrorism then'. [...]

Uniformed officers who brought the prisoner back, they told me that this was the case and he was a suspected terrorist and they were using public nuisance to bring him in. [...]

I was told by uniformed officers who briefed me that that's what we should be doing [seizing clothing] and I said 'well let's arrest him for terrorism, take him to Paddington Green and call out SO13 [the Anti-Terrorist Branch]'. They said the Superintendent doesn't want that, so I said, I made the decision, 'well we're not seizing his clothing, [some words redacted] If they had been interested in him, they would then have said, 'let's go'. Soon he was brought in, done that, placed in a cell. [Rest of paragraph redacted]

[emphasis added]

That's the first time I realise how close I have been to have been bundled up to Paddington Green police station. Another statement below, worth retyping in full, shows that during the IPCC supervised enquiry, the Met fully realised their errors. Unfortunately the investigation report did not acknowledge these findings, necessitating two more years of fighting before eventually getting a formal apology.

Statement of [redacted]

Police Officer [redacted]

Signature: [missing]

Date: [missing, but most likely end of 2006 during investigation by the the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards]

I have been asked to review the custody record and CRIS reports relating to the arrest of David Mery on the 28th of July 2005.


Opened by PS T.

The reason for arrest is given as 'Causing a public nuisance. Caused a major evacuation of three mainline railway stations after his deliberate actions caused police to believe he had explosives'. This is not borne out by any of the evidence presented by the officers. There are grounds for stop and search but I can see nothing to substantiate the deliberate actions, the closure of the underground network and evacuation were the decision of the police and not caused by the suspect.

The legal database quotes the offence as: -

A person is guilty of the offence if he/she
    (a) Does an act not warranted by law, or
    (b) omits to discharge a legal duty,

The reason for detention is given as to obtain evidence by questioning.

Item 2 on the front page indicates that Mr Mery made no comment when the facts of arrest were explained, however the first entry in the custody log of events at 21:08 is a comment made by Mr Mery. This has been correctly endorsed and signed.

The second entry is timed 21:53 stating that Mr Mery arrives in custody handcuffed, there is no explanation for the time gap between these two entries but it may be that all of the normal booking in procedures were completed before this entry was made.

A request for someone to be informed of his arrest is recorded at 21:53 and given at 22:09.

At 23:00 Inspector L authorises a Section 18 PACE search of the home address, I cannot read the handwriting giving the grounds or nature of the evidence sought. S.18 PACE gives police the power to search for evidence relating to that offence or a similar offence, as the suspect had aroused suspicion by his dress and demeanour it is hard to understand what further evidence could be obtained from a search. Also the only reason recorded for his detention was to interview.

The first review of detention was due at 02:57 but was not carried out until 04:20 with no explanation as to why it was delayed, but as interview started at 03:06 this could be the reason.

At 04:27 Mr Mery was released on bail to return on the 31st August 2005 at 09:00, the reason given on the circumstances page was 'Forensic checks on his computers and CCTV needs to be viewed'

There is no mention on the custody record of what happened on the 31st August 2005 when Mr Mery was due to return to answer his bail. The custody record should have been updated with details of a rebail or disposal.

The activity log does not show anything for the day.

[3 paragraphs redacted] There is no record that any of Mr Mery's property has been restored to him. It would appear from the nature of the items marked that they were restored to Mr Mery on his release on the 29th July 2005 [they were restored on 2005-10-13].

[3 paragraphs redacted] the OIC [officer in charge] must complete form 60C bail cancellation notice and send it to the Mr Mery. OIC should also inform the custody officer of the decision so that they can close the record. According to the custody record activity log none of these things happened until the 5th of October 2005 when the custody record was opened and the bail record cancelled. On the 13th October 2005 the form 60C was printed along with the property sheets 57G and H.

[1 line redacted]

The circumstances of finding states that the items were "Left at above location following call to suspect package and susp person" The above location being Southwark LT [London Tube] station. This is completely at odds with the evidence provided by the arresting officer who states that an officer removed the rucksack from Mr Mery and then moved it away from him in the underground station.

CRIS [Crime Report Information System] REPORT 3029675/05

The allegation is recorded as 'Bomb Hoax' this is incorrect and should have been corrected. A bomb hoax requires the dispatch or placing of an article or communication of false information, none of these things happened. Mr Mery was arrested for causing a public nuisance, not causing a bomb hoax.

The crime is screened in as a suspect has been arrested but then the report is "No crimed" the next day with no reason given, the no crime is confirmed on the 5th of August 2005.

The method shown on the classification page is "The suspect evaded officers at an underground station, causing a major terrorist incident alert. Thus causing a public nuisance" this is misleading and not borne out by any of the evidence provided. [Entering a closed space, such as a tube station, with lots of police officers around, but not looking at them is 'evading officers'!]

DS B records the results of the S.18 PACE search and the interview of Mr Mery following a briefing from DS W. He notes that there was no evidence visible of causing a public nuisance but the computers will have to be examined. He also records the fact that Mr Mery was bailed to 31st August 2005 so that the computers and CCTV could be examined.

Although DS W was assigned the case at the time of arrest on the 28th July 2005 the CRIS was not allocated to him until 28th September 2005 and he did not acknowledged this until the 4th of October 2005.

[1 paragraph redacted]

In light of this and the account given in the interview he believes that Mr Mery's action do not amount to an offence, he considers this suitable for no further action [NFA]. This has been discussed with DI C.

There's no separate entry from DI C confirming the NFA authorisation.

There's no mention of any forensic analysis of the various items of computer equipment that were seized from Mr Mery nor of the viewing or seizure of the CCTV evidence from Southwark Underground station, both of which were given as the reason for Mr Mery bail to return.

There's no mention of what happened on the 31st of August when Mr Mery returned on bail.

On the 14th of October DS W makes an entry in the DETS [‘Details of the Investigation” section of a crime report] page to show that Mr Mery has attended with his legal rep and has had his property restored. There is no record of the property being restored or signed for on the custody record property receipts.

[1 line redacted]


Observations conducted in the CCTV control room were very important in forming the suspicion that led to the stop and search and then arrest of Mr Mery.

[2 paragraphs redacted]


In my opinion Mr Mery's actions at the underground station were reasonable grounds for the stop and search of him and his bag. The fact that officers at the scene made the decision to elevate this to a full evacuation and closure of the rail network in order to have the bag examined by explosive officers was one for them and should have been recorded elsewhere.

I do not feel that the court would accept that to walk into the tube station as a dark skinned male wearing a baseball cap and a heavy jacket carrying a rucksack and stand on the platform would constitute an unlawful act. The reaction of the police officers caused the disruption to the public and is understandable in the circumstances; to make it the fault of Mr Mery is not.

Given that the reason for detention was to obtain evidence by interview this should have been done as soon as possible so that Mr Mery could account for his actions that were observed.

There is no mention as to what evidence it was hoped would be obtained from the forensic analysis of the various items of computer equipment seized from Mr Mery and his home address, however it is at odds with the fact that it appears that a USB memory stick and an I-Pod were restored to him on his release without being submitted for forensic examination, both being large digital memory storage devices.

None of the property on the custody record has been signed for when restored either at bail stage or at the finalisation of the case.

[1 line redacted]

The CRIS report should not have been no crimed as there was a suspect on bail and further lines of enquiry had been identified.

[2 paragraphs redacted] before Mr Mery was due to return to answer his bail.

[2 paragraphs redacted]. Having decided to NFA the matter Mr Mery should have been informed of his bail being cancelled [several words redacted] NFA letter to inform him of the reason and to arrange for the restoration of his property. [Rest of this paragraph redacted]

The custody record should have been opened on the 31st of August 2005 to record what happened and whether a new bail date was set or the case the case is NFA'd. From Mr Mery's statement he was told on the 31st August 2005 that the matter was NFA's but no paperwork was served nor was the custody record updated.

[emphasis added; name of the officers anonymised; some obvious typos corrected when retyping this statement, some possibly added]

Other threads apparent in these documents include the news that, though the Met claims never to have obtained the CCTV footage, the British Transport Police did request it the next day (I never received a substantive answer to the subject access request I sent them on 2005-08-31); how my normal usual behaviour, termed 'eccentric' by one officer, is what many couldn't accept as normal and hence had to be suspicious; how some of the police actions and decisions appear to be media-driven... Topics to be explored further on the blog.

The IPCC still has to inform me on its retention policy, i.e., when my case file will eventually be deleted.

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Fri, 05 Feb 2010

Fight 'The Man' and win on Dissident Island Radio

On a cold evening last week I went to the London Action Resource Centre to be interviewed by Chickpea for Dissident Island Radio. We talked for an hour about my arrest, how to get off the national DNA database, stop and search and other aspects of policing in London. The hour went by very fast and we only covered a few of Chickpea's very good questions and part of what I had prepared. This interview has been edited down to about 20 minutes and will be streamed tonight as part of the 52nd live edition of the programme. Chickpea was also going to interview Pennie Quinton, the film maker who was stopped and searched, under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, in 2003 close to the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition and eventually won a European Court of Human Rights judgment (though the Home Office has indicated it will likely appeal). Here's what's scheduled for tonight:

Dissident Island Radio

On the show this week we have with us a motley crew of dissidents. Two people who've fought 'The Man' and won respect for their rights talk to us about stop and search and DNA retention as well as the broader assault on our civil and human rights.

Our Northern correspondent has swung into action and grabbed us some words from SAEAB about all things animal rights in Bradford including their upcoming days of action. We'll also have words about the Stop the Traffic campaign and their plans for the UK's biggest traffic jam and how you can help.

With us live in studio we will have some spoken word madness from Pete the Temp and another in our series of DJ sets from Sasquatch and his friends at Senseless Records.

Tune in live tonight from 9pm till late or subscribe to the podcast. Live shows are on the first and third Fridays of every month.

Update: The 'Fighting the law, and winning' audio is now available on Dissident Island Radio and my full interview is available on London Indymedia.

Note that there are more DNA profiles on the database than was mentioned in the live programme. From the NDNAD annual report: 'At 31 March 2009, 5,617,604 subject profiles were retained on the NDNAD [...] it was estimated that approximately 13.5% of subject profiles held on the NDNAD were replicates. The number of different individuals represented on the NDNAD [...] was approximately 4,859,934 (for all UK forces).'

One issue we didn't have the time go into much detail is the racial bias of the NDNAD. As it happens, Black Mental Health has just launched a petition to raise awareness of this very issue on the Number 10 website.

First published on 2010-02-05; last updated on 2010-02-08.

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