26 police forces bar 'vexatious' Press Gazette RIPA questions as ACPO considers 'public interest' on releasing guidance

Press Gazette has now been barred from asking questions about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act by 26 police forces across the UK. (Picture: Reuters)

All forces have been asked to provide the submissions they made to the Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office (IOCCO), which document whether, and on how many occasions, they have used RIPA in the last three years to secretly obtain journalists' phone records.

All those to have responded have refused under section 14(1) of FoI, which categorises the request as "vexatious". 

This follows a number of FoI requests made by Press Gazette, and others, on the subject of RIPA being used on journalists.

The rejections come after national guidance was circulated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) recommending that section 14(1) is the appropriate response.

Separately, ACPO has been asked, under FoI, to provide all guidance documents – which forces do not have to follow – issued to forces in relation to Press Gazette FoI requests.

The request was made on 5 February. Although under FoI rules requests are required to be answered within 20 working days, ACPO has applied an extension until 2 April while it decides whether it is in the "public interest" to release the information.

The police forces to have so far rejected Press Gazette FoIs on "vexatious" grounds are:

  • Northamptonshire
  • Humberside
  • Northern Ireland
  • Gwent
  • West Mercia
  • Northumbria
  • Metropolitan
  • West Yorkshire
  • Kent
  • Cheshire
  • Nottinghamshire
  • Lancashire
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Norfolk
  • Derbyshire
  • Essex
  • Greater Manchester
  • Avon and Somerset
  • Devon and Cornwall
  • Gloucestershire
  • Bedfordshire
  • Dorset
  • Hertfordshire
  • Thames Valley
  • City of London
  • Wiltshire

Meanwhile, Press Gazette is currently taking legal advice and preparing an appeal to the Information Commissioner over the UK police forces' blanket refusal to answer questions about the use of RIPA to obtain journalists' phone records.

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