Thursday, 27 January 2011

Confirmation of skulduggery in low places

I’m going to start this piece slightly on the back foot. Actually, that is a metaphor borrowed from one of my favourite sports, cricket, and not particularly accurately applied in the borrowed sense of ‘to be on the defensive’. In cricket, some of the most thrilling attacking shots in the game are actually played by batsmen off the back foot, while defensive strokes are most commonly played off the front foot. But enough of cricket.

In my earlier piece about withheld documentation, I speculated that policy true for Leicestershire police would be likely true for UK police as a whole. From a fresh source I’m now able to confirm that I am right. But first, that note of reservation and slight correction. I suggested in my last piece that the English language version of Mark Harrison’s report might have been withheld. That seemed a reasonable inference as the document acknowledges the poster Cushty as translator and also gives thanks to Skeptical (for reasons unspecified, but I assumed, translation). However, running parallel with the main text to the right is sub-text to the left in very small font size, that can be expanded simply by clicking on it, and that seems, at least in part, to be Harrison’s original, English-Language report taken direct from the file, reading word-for-word the same as the text to the right. So quite what is original and what (if anything) is translated, I’m not too sure, but I think we can be sure both that the version of the report on Gerrymccannsblog is true and faithful to Harrison’s original and that at least some of Harrison’s report in English is on the DVD.

Portuguese lawyers Morais Leitao, Galvao Teles and Soares da Silva wrote a long and detailed letter to the criminal instruction court of Portimao, detailing what, of work by UK police should be released or withheld, and explaining the rationale.

It is made abundantly plain that information about sex offenders, or information alluding to suspicions of illegal sexual activity should be withheld. That is clear-cut, I think. The Gaspar statements ought never to have seen the light of day. It was made a condition of divulging such information to the Portuguese authorities that confidentiality be respected.

The letter acknowledges the importance of swift and easy lines of communication between Britain and Portugal to the investigation to facilitate and enable a smooth and effective operating procedure by officers on the ground in Portugal investigating the case. But it warns that should confidentiality be breached, that would have grave implications for future cooperation between police forces of the two nations in future investigations. That is because much of the intelligence shared consisted in unproven theories or hypotheses that, released into the public domain, might tend to lower reputations or impugn individuals. The theory that Madeleine might have been murdered is surely a prime example, but scarcely the only one. Also, it seems that there is a UK procedure whereby information shared between police forces (even in the UK) is first tested to gauge the possible impact of sharing it should the information get in to the public domain. These procedures were waived for the Madeleine enquiry, again, in the interests of expediency, on the strict understanding that confidentiality was maintained.

The organization for which Mark Harrison works, the National Policing Improvement Agency, is mentioned specifically by name. It is the repository of specialist techniques in crime detection, some of which were made available to the Portuguese police, and the divulging into the public domain of which could give an advantage and a head start to criminals in ways of avoiding apprehension or thwarting crime-detection strategies. The information is classified as UK confidential A raft of legal acts (UK and European) are cited as central to the principles underpinning the operation of UK policing, and central also to the understanding between the two nations in investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Here are short extracts from the letter:

It should be noted that the divulgation of the above-mentioned elements would most probably affect legal and international police cooperation in the future within the domain of complex criminal investigations, therefore putting into question the execution of Portuguese Justice.

If ... in other words, ... the transmission of information by the requesting entities had not pre-supposed respective confidentiality, this information would never have been transmitted to the Portuguese authorities, as according to what was stated previously this information would be subject to confidentiality covered by UK Rights and Law.

It should also be said that the divulgation of information from the process files that refers to personal data of individuals and who were in no way indicated in the current inquiry would also be an attack on the most elemental rights of personality and even on physical integrity.

...and who were in no way indicted in the current enquiry .... Think Mr and Mrs Gaspar in particular!

I think that speaks for itself.

As a precaution, I filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act asking whether there are regional differences in policies among the UK police for the release of information into the public domain about the Madeleine investigation. This was my reply:

Dear xxxx,
I am writing with reference to your request for information regarding the public release of information about Madeleine McCann, dated 17th January 2011, made under section 1(1) of the Freedom of Information Act.

You asked for the following information:

‘…are there, in fact, regional differences in criteria within the UK police for the release of information about the Madeleine enquiry into the public domain?’ I am writing to advise you I have established that the information you requested is not held by the NPIA.

The NPIA are not aware of any regional differences in criteria for the UK police forces to release information about the Madeleine McCann investigation into the public domain. Each police force and public authority are responsible for their own obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the final decision to release information. However, the Leicestershire police force have produced a publication schedule for the documentation produced during the McCann investigation. Please see link,

This would attract the Section 22 exemption of the FOIA, where information is intended for future publication, and has been used by the NPIA before regarding information requested regarding the Madeleine McCann investigation. The services of Mark Harrison were requested by the Portuguese Authorities by means of a Judicial Letter of Request. The resulting report, in respect of the search activity, was released by them into the public domain on 21 July 2008 as part of a comprehensive document providing details of the Portuguese investigation.

I gave the link provided above in my earlier piece. It makes plain that, in the long term, there was always an intention that rogatory interviews be released, but not until after the full circumstances of Madeleine’s disappearance are known, culprit(s) convicted and a suitable time for appeals has elapsed. Information in that link amplifies what is in the link which is the primary source of this piece (and given at the foot of this article).

My foi reply, in one sense, may not seem very helpful. But in another sense, it confirms that the NPIA are not aware of any regional differences and the point is made that publication (of the whole DVD, including Mark Harrison’s report) was a decision of the Portuguese authorities alone.

It seemed evident all along that an anti mantra of blind hate amounted to something like: ‘justice waiting to be done’ (the Mccanns remaining at liberty); ‘miscarriage of justice’ (someone other than the McCanns being apprehended for crime(s) against Madeleine) ‘justice’ (the McCanns being charged for the crimes of another or others against their daughter). The mantra has been pursued with relentless, blind fanaticism. Proper considerations (such as revelation of confidential tools of crime prevention provided by the National Policing Improvement Agency) were usurped by obsessional preoccupation with non-existent, manufactured non-issues (such as Gerry’s possession of CEOP manuals, described as ‘top secret’, but actually freely available on the net).

Still, lasting stain of disgrace though that all leaves on those responsible, the worst is worse. Fundamental principles of national, European and international law have been trampled over rough-shod jeopardising, and probably wrecking, any hope of cooperation between nations (perhaps not just Britain and Portugal) in investigating crime again.

I hope the dunderheads feel proud of themselves. In the meantime, criminals the world over will be rubbing their hands with glee.

By Honestbroker