Monday, 26 October 2009

Kidnap freedom of information request

Is it true that London's armed police spend a lot of time rescuing gangsters who have been kidnapped by rivals? Does this happen more than once a week? And when it happens do the hostages refuse to testify against the hostage takers?

The problem does exist despite this being the only example I could find (a story from 2006 when the police managed a prosecution despite the hostages refusing to testify against their kidnappers.)

Detective Inspector Steve Wagstaff, from the Metropolitan Police Kidnap Unit, said:

"I would commend the work and effort put into this investigation by DC Cath Jenkin who was able to persist with the investigation despite the victims and hostages being uncooperative.

"The benefit to future investigations is that a precedent has now been set where the police will succeed in taking robust action against such offenders even when their victims are unable to offer positive support."

At the time Detective Superintendent Alan Pughsley, from Metropolitan Police Kidnap Unit, said:

"This is a prime example of a difficult prosecution where the hostages did not support the police. These kidnappers are dangerous individuals from criminal networks who are highly likely to commit these offences again. It is therefore vital that all is done to prosecute and convict these individuals."

His words: "These kidnappers are dangerous individuals from criminal networks who are highly likely to commit these offences again," suggest that this was not a one off incident.

So the question is whether the most dangerous and fairly frequent work carried out by armed police is rescuing drug dealers?

Hopefully an answer will be in the post on 2 November but judging by the response to this FOI request, there appear to be lots of reasons why this information will not be provided:

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2009090001397

I respond in connection with your request for information dated 06/09/2009, which was received by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 07/09/2009. I note you seek access to the following information:

1. The number of kidnaps that occur annually in London.
2. The number of these kidnaps that involve armed police.
3. And the number of kidnaps that occur annually in which the hostages do not cooperate with the police.
4. Which boroughs have the highest incidence of this kind of crime?
Could I get the information I asked for on kidnapping in London in relation to the last five years? If there is a problem providing information going back this far, three years would be fine. Any thing that could show whether or not kidnapping offences that I am asking about are increasing or decreasing in number.

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act), we have 20 working days to respond to a request for information unless we are considering whether the information requested is covered by one of the 'qualified exemptions' (exemptions which must be tested against the public interest before deciding whether they apply to the information in question).

Where we are considering the public interest test against the application of relevant qualified exemptions, Section 17(2)(b) provides that we can extend the 20 day deadline.

a) in relation to any request for information, a public authority is, as respects any information, relying on a claim that any provision of Part II which relates to the duty to confirm or deny and is not specified in section 2(3) is relevant to the request, or ii) that the information is exempt information only by virtue of a provision not specified in section 2(3), and b) at the time when the notice under subsection (1) is given to the applicant, the public authority (or, in a case falling within section 66(3) or (4), the responsible authority) has not yet reached a decision as to the application of subsection (1)(b) or (2)(b) of section 2, the notice under subsection (1) must indicate that no decision as to the application of that provision has yet been reached and must contain an estimate of the date by which the authority expects that such a decision will have been reached.

I am sorry to inform you that we have not been able to complete our response to your request by the original deadline, as we are currently considering whether 'qualified exemptions' apply to the information you have requested. As a result we will not be able to respond within 20 working days.

For your information we are considering the following exemption(s):
Section 30 - Investigations and proceedings conducted by the public authorities
Section 31 - Law enforcement
Section 38 - Health and Safety
Section 40 - Personal information
Section 41 - Information provided in confidence
Section 44 - Prohibitions on disclosure

I can now advise you that the amended date for a response is 02/11/2009.

It would be nice to know if this is a real issue. At the moment it is even unclear whether armed police are patrolling Hackney or not - a couple of Hackney councillor websites carry a denial from Hackney's police chief.

The claim was made in the wake of feud between Turkish drugs gangs. According to this piece in the Guardian: The gang shootings that put police with machine guns on London streets - a number of non-Turkish Hackney gangs are already involved in the violence.

Is kidnapping becoming more common?

Was this story in the Hackney Gazette nearly one of them? "They were shouting at me to take them inside the flat, but when I just kept screaming they ran off with my keys and my mobile phone."

Recent kidnapping involving armed police and a kidnapper from Hackney: Stoke Newington gang member guilty of kidnapping friend of Lily Allen.

This kidnap story (bbc version) saw a friend of Lily Allen taken hostage. It included a comment from an officer in the Kidnap Unit. One of the suspects in the organised kidnap gang was arrested in Hackney.

Or this Southall story.

Otherwise there doesn't seem to be much about this subject anywhere. All I could find was this brief interview which had a promising start: "I'm a detective sergeant in charge of an Alpha Team, (Armed Kidnap Team) in Surveillance" but provided very little else of interest. It was in a police newsletter back in 2006.

Newham Kidnap stories:

Story 1 Rival kidnapped and stripped
Story 2 Vigilanties kidnap teenager
Story 3 Kidnappers win sentence appeal

Story 4
Story 5
Story 6 Estate agent kidnaps her boss

Story 7

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