In a move that will surprise no one, publication of the report into Staffordshire Police’s mishandling of Kevin Nunes’ murder – the Costello report – has been blocked for a second time.
The report is said to be fiercely critical of the woeful ‘investigation’ into the death of Kevin Nunes, the jailing of five men for the murder, and their subsequent release after the convictions were quashed. The Midlands Express & Star newspaper has been pushing for a copy of the report under Freedom of Information rules, but the request has been denied, with Staffs Police and the IPCC claiming that its release would compromised future investigations.
However, it would appear that neither Staffs Police nor the IPCC are completely sure of where they stand legally or who controls the document’s publication. The WhatDoTheyKnow website, which makes it easy for members of the public to lodge FoI requests and track their progress, is home to a request to view the report. Initially sent to the Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis, who was first elected to the post in 2012 with a voter turnout of less than 12% and subsequently reelected in May 2016, it was eventually passed to Staffs Police themselves.
After failing to provide the document within the specified time period, an internal review of the failure to provide it was requested – as is the right of anyone making such a request which is not met. In response to the request for a review, Staffs Police said that they were ‘minded’ to release the document once the appropriate redactions – censorship – had been made. They added the caveat that because the document formed part of an on-going investigation at that point, the ultimate decision to release it lay with the IPCC.
A response was made to Staffs Police stating that the investigation had concluded and therefore the decision to publish lay solely with the document owner, namely Staffs Police. However, a separate request was made to the IPCC to release the documents and their initial response is that as the document is owned by a security force it could be exempt from publication. Ultimately the request was refused, citing “the exemptions under Section 31(1)(g) (Law Enforcement) by virtue of Section 31(2)(b) the purposes of ascertaining whether any person is responsible for any conduct which is improper and Section 40(2) (Personal Information)”.
As the requester points out, the IPCC are a body independent from the Police, and therefore should not have the power to deny the request. Nor should Staffs Police be exempted from their statutory duties under the laws governing Freedom of Information, but here they appear only to happy to shirk those responsibilities and protect the 14 officers investigated by the IPCC but who were found to have no case to answer.
You can read the full thread here: Operation Kalmia
If you haven’t come across the WhatDoTheyKnow site before, it’s worth taking a look at the home page, which explains just how easy it is to make an FoI request: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/