Following on from these blogs I then made a Freedom of Information request of North Wales Police and posed the following questions:
1.The total number of hate incidents reported in your force area in the 12 months ending on the 31st July 2010.
2.The number of those incidents that were anti English hate crimes.
3.The number of those incidents that were anti Welsh hate crimes.
4.As of Tuesday 31st August what proportion of those incidents as at 2) above were detected
5.As above for 3)
6.Finally how many prosecutions took place in respect of Q 2 and 3.
On the 29th September 2010, I received a response from North Wales Police which was in effect a 'refusal' under Section 17(5) of the Freedom of Information Act that answers to most of the questions were available on the North Wales Police website
North Wales Police's Monthly Information Bulletin shows that in the year to end of July 2010, there were a total of 147 Hate crimes of these 12 were categorised Welsh/English hate crimes and 58% of them were detected. North Wales Police 'refused' to provide a breakdown of those 12 crimes stating that,
"...would involve manually reviewing each record...The cost of providing you with the information is above the amount to which we are legally required to respond."
Section 12 of the Freedom of Information (Fees and Appropriate Limits) Regulations 2004, states that public authorities do not have to supply the information if it costs £450 or above to retrieve the information at £25 per hour. This means that North Wales Police are refusing on the basis that it will take MORE than 18 hours to scan 12 crime reports! I was also refused an answer to the number of prosecutions on the basis that the Ministry of Justice holds that information.
This frankly is a deliberate attempt to withold information and NOT to comply with the Section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act which directs agencies to provide advice and assistance to applicants, which will be the subject of a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office.
Not only did I just make this FOIA request to North Wales Police but also to the other three forces in Wales and all the Scottish Police forces. Whilst many were as unhelpful as North Wales Police others like Dyfed Powys Police provided all the information requested as did some Scottish forces.
The lessons to be learnt here is not to accept no as an answer and to determine whether the public authority has acted reasonably and complied with the Act.