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Police pledge action on FoI after reporter’s three-year wait for response

Conor Gogarty 2A police force has vowed to act to address the issues which caused it to respond to a regional journalist’s Freedom of Information request three years late.

Gloucestershire Constabulary has pledged to “provide a strong and sustainable service in future” after Bristol Post chief reporter Conor Gogarty revealed he had recently received a response from the force to a request sent in December 2017.

HTFP reported on Wednesday that Conor, pictured, had criticised the force’s “long-running issues with transparency” and urged the organisation to “do better” following the saga.

The Constabulary says the response was sent to Conor, who submitted his request when he was working for the Gloucestershire Echo, while it was clearing a “historical backlog of requests”.

A force spokesman told HTFP: “The Constabulary receives over 100 FOI requests a month and while it is a constant challenge to keep up with demand, in 2019 we did refer ourselves to the Information Commissioner in recognition that, despite the best of efforts of staff, we could not reach the level of service required.

“A clear action plan is now in place and is helping us address the issues and ensure that we can provide a strong and sustainable service in future.

“Part of this includes clearing the historical backlog of requests and checking with those who made requests some time ago but didn’t receive a response whether they still wish to receive the information.

“It takes on average three-and-a-half hours to gather information to respond to an individual FoI request. It can be much longer and often involves considering competing legal and moral obligations.

“As a result, FoI requests are occasionally delayed but this should be the exception and we are sorry when we haven’t responded within the required timeframe.”

Conor had submitted his request after being denied information by the force’s press office about an undercover knife crime operation it was running.

But, in its belated response, the force refused to confirm or deny whether the information he requested was held.

The spokesman added the force “takes transparency very seriously”.

He said: “We abide by College of Policing guidelines when publishing information about misconduct hearings and they are often held in public, with details published on the Constabulary website in advance and results posted following the hearing.

“If misconduct is found we have a track record of taking robust action against those responsible.

“We would also like to reassure the public there are very thorough policies and clear processes related to matters of police misconduct and we have units such as our professional standards department and anti-corruption unit, whose job it is to investigate allegations of misconduct and take appropriate action.

“Our intent, values and ethics are also laid out on our website and we are fully committed to the national Code of Ethics.”