The Metropolitan Police is now refusing to release full lists of murder victims under the Freedom of Information Act – making it more difficult to check their figures.
Previously requests along these lines have been successful, such as the data featured in the Guardian article ‘Five years of London murders listed‘ and on our blog The Met’s Five Year List of Murders.
Most murders are publicised in one way or the other, whether through media reports, police appeals or court cases. But often our figures do not match up to those provided by the police. So when we attempted to get a list of homicide victims for the years 2012, 2013, 2014 in an attempt to check whether we had missed any cases, our request was refused. Instead we were allowed only total figures:
2012 – 106
2013 – 109
2014 – 92
We also asked for a breakdown by nationality, but the Met were not prepared to give figures for any nationality where the number was less than 5. As a result, the statistics for the three years in total read:
The nationalities with less than five victims are: US, Cyprus, Russia, Spain, Nigeria, Latvia, Turkey, Jamaica, China, Australia, Pakistan, Ghana, Albania, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Kosovo, Rwanda, Hungary, India, Portugal, Italy, Bangladesh, Kenya, Algeria, Iran, Fiji, Ireland, South Africa, Bulgaria, Columbia, Vietnam.
When we asked for a review of the decision, on the basis that similar requests had been granted, we were told: ‘Every FoIA request received by the MPS is considered on a case-by-case basis and no precedent is set by previous non-disclosures or disclosures as in this case, where a public authority may have previously released similar information in the past.’
The reasons for giving only a partial disclosure are that:
- Disclosure of information contained within the requested information… would have a negative effect on the relationship between the police and victims or witnesses of incidents who would expect that information provided to the police would be held in confidence and that publication of information by way of a freedom of information request would damage this trust, potentially impacting on the flow of information into the MPS
- To disclose any additional information may harm the MPS in its ability in the prevention and detection of crime and the apprehension or prosecution of offenders
- Disclosure of the names of the victims, would be likely to cause distress to their families, as there would be no reasonable expectation that the MPS would release this information without the consent of the family.
We understand and accept the third objection, but continue to believe that the public interest is in the identity of all homicide victims being in the public domain rather than kept secret for whatever reason.