Are Wirral Council breaching the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000?

7th May 2014

Please read the following article in a recent Wirral Globe, in particular the subsequent comments, where there is much detailed information on the subject of interception or filtering of emails:

wirralglobe.co.uk – 2nd May 2014

Here’s my latest FoI request to Wirral Council, aimed at gaining clarity on a few of the important issues raised:

  • Are Wirral Council intercepting emails from the public without a warrant from the Secretary of State and thereby breaching RIPA, or are they seeking and receiving councillors’ permission or responding to a request to filter beforehand?
  • The content of a confidential note that was sent to all councillors by the Wirral CEO Graham Burgess
  • Are unrelated emails being diverted unjustly on the basis of a convenient red herring – a sledgehammer used to crack a nut?
  • Are any of my own emails being filtered to the “specific inbox” at the request or agreement of councillors?
  • How many councillors were, to quote the CEO, “offended”?
  • Have any councillors who were not “offended” had some of their incoming emails filtered regardless?

The FoI request, dated yesterday:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/possible_interception_of_public

 

From: Paul Cardin

6 May 2014

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please read the following recent article from local newspaper The
Wirral Globe:

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/111889…

Following these revelations, public concern has been raised that
senior officers of the council may have overstepped their powers
under RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) and I
would ask you to allay my own particular concerns by answering the
following questions in full.

The following email addresses have been anonymised to protect my
privacy and to avoid spammers, but will match both addresses for
Paul Cardin which you will hold on your systems. I would ask that
you substitute the correct addresses when answering the points
within the FoI request below:

A. **f*@e***v******a********e.co.uk
B. **u*.***d**@*t*w****.com

1. Please provide a full list of the total number and identities of
all Wirral councillors who have agreed, either in response to a
prior request / suggestion or through their own autonomous actions,
to have emails from the above A and B email addresses (and
addressed “to” or “c.c.” these councillors) diverted to the quoted
“specific inbox” within the above article or to another distinct
and separate inbox. Please state whether such a list does or
doesn’t exist and / or whether you do / do not hold it. Please
state who does hold it if not yourselves.

2. Please provide a full list of the total number and identities of
all councillors who have had emails originating from the above
email addresses (and addressed “to” or “c.c.” these councillors)
diverted to the quoted “specific inbox” or to another distinct and
separate inbox WITHOUT the relevant councillors’ permission. Please
state whether such a list does or doesn’t exist and / or whether
you do / do not hold it. Please state the name of the party holding
it if not yourselves.

3. Please provide a copy of the information / document(s)
identifying the name of the “specific inbox” and also a copy of
information / documents detailing and making clear whether it is
monitored and read by officers or elected members. Please state
whether such documents do or do not exist and / or whether you do /
do not hold them. Please state the name of the party holding them
if not yourselves.

4. Although I am not making any allegations as regards overstepping
RIPA powers, due to the potential seriousness of this matter,
please provide a copy of the quoted “confidential note” (correctly
and professionally redacted) sent by CEO Graham Burgess to
councillors. The reason for this aspect of my request is that the
note could contain crucial information to implicate / vindicate
council officers – which would in turn clarify whether or not this
matter needs to be reported to and pursued further by the
appropriate regulating authorities.

5. Please provide information / documents detailing the total
number of councillors who were “offended” – presumably these will
be the ones making, to quote the CEO, “a number of complaints
regarding the content, unacceptable tone and high volume of emails
sent by [an individual] including a specific concern regarding
comments about the Hillsborough memorial service held at Wallasey
Town Hall”.

This is not a vexatious request as it is clearly:

o not obsessive
o not a repeat request
o not designed to cause disruption or annoyance
o not imposing a significant burden
o of serious purpose and value
o not likely to harass or cause distress to council staff

Wherever DPA issues come into play under Section 40(2) of the FOIA,
please redact any potentially identifying information accordingly.
However such considerations should not arise when the requested
detail is e.g. “total number of councillors”.

For your information, I’ve emailed Graham Burgess to ask whether my
emails are being filtered and to state that it would have been a
courtesy to advise members of the public that these actions were
being considered, but have not received a response.

I did receive a “read receipt” so presumably my emails to the CEO
are not being filtered away or worse, intercepted without my
knowledge,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

 

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About Wirral In It Together

Campaigner for open government. Wants senior public servants to be honest and courageous. It IS possible!
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