Monday, 6 March 2017

The Forensic Archive Ltd repeatedly wriggles on the disclosure hook

Above is the only image of the sound moderator taken pre-trial which has been disclosed. The police expect our forensic scientists to work with this poor quality photocopy, still refusing to disclose prints or negatives. This is what Essex Police call 'full disclosure'. The CCRC failed to obtain these photographs under s.17 of Criminal Appeals Act in 2011, and the Forensic Archive Ltd are avoiding disclosure

The dispute of non-disclosure has raised its head yet again in another area of my case. Not only are Essex Police deliberately and illegally not conforming to Court Orders to disclose all of the evidence in my case, but the Forensic Science Service are also refusing to hand over material they hold without any authority to do so.

The Forensic Science Service Laboratory at Huntingdon who handled exhibits and conducted experiments and tests in 1985/1986 on exhibits pertinent to my case was closed in 2012. All of the documentation including examination records, booking in logs, lab notes, reports, internal transfers and photographs were transferred to the ForensicArchive Ltd. (FAL) based at Birmingham. This Government-owned company was formed to retain and manage case files from all investigation work previously undertaken by the Forensic Science Service (FSS).

On 22nd July 2016, I contacted the archive by letter to establish that they did hold the complete case files and informed them that I was making a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to have full access and disclosure of all the material they held relative to the three case numbers which featured in my case during the Essex Police Investigation.

Alison Fendley the Executive Director of the FAL sent me a reply dated 4 August 2016 and confirmed that after a brief look they did hold pertinent files adding she did not know if all the case material generated by the Huntingdon Lab was held. In response to the Freedom of Information request, Ms Fendley continued: “It is not within the authority of the FSL to release such information to individuals, defence teams or appellants under the mandate to which we operate”. This statement contradicts the FSL website information, which states:

“For the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI Act), FAL is a Government Owned Company, and therefore meets the description of a public authority. As such, FAL is under an obligation to comply with the FOI Act’s legislative provisions concerning access to recorded information.”

Following this negative response I wrote again, requesting that they provide the information, which allowed them exemption from disclosure of case material. I also wrote to Mr John Lees, at the Information Commissioners Office and to my MP Mary Creagh to highlight this refusal to disclose. I received no response from my MP and the response from Mr Lees discussed a Data Protection Request for material. I had not made a Data Protection Request, I had made a Freedom of Information request for all documents and wrote back to advise him of his misinterpretation of the request.

Realising the error Mr Lees wrote to me again in December 2016 requesting copies of the two letters I had sent to when I made my requests. I do not hand copy every letter I write, but a typed manuscript copy of the two letters was available from my campaign team and these were immediately sent to Mr Lees so he could conduct his investigation into the non-disclosure of the material. Following the ICO involvement I received a garbled 2-page response from the FAL, which went into great detail about Data Protection Requests, which I had not made! In addition they stated they would not release all case material under a Freedom of Information Request, but specific items which they would then make a decision whether they would disclose or not. They further stated:

“The FAL is only obliged to consider FOI requests which do not exceed the appropriate limit. The appropriate limit for the FAL is set at £450, and represents the estimated cost of one person spending 2 ½ days working on determining whether the FAL holds the information, locating the information or a document containing it.”
The archive also stated:
“It is therefore important that you explain as precisely as you can, the information to which you are seeking access in order for us to identify and locate the correct material.”

I do not want cherry picked extracts from documents. I need to have the complete case files they hold and I have advised them of this in the last letter I sent to them in February 2017.  The archive have also tried to fob me off by stating that:

“requests for such information would need to be directed to the original investigating police force or the CPS. The pertinent force can then instruct the archive to release the appropriate information to you/your defence team.”

I sought legal advice on this and have been informed that I am not required to obtain permission for my case files from either the CPS or Essex police as no legal restrictions are in place regarding my case documents.

In response to the comments made by the archive regarding the “precise material” I want that is easy. I want the full set of case files they hold regarding the three case numbers relevant to the events at White House Farm which they have no right to withhold from me. The fight continues.


Jeremy Bamber

Jeremy Bamber
Innocent Jeremy Bamber