Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The communication masts (2)

At least two investigators to my knowledge had independently made Freedom of Information requests to Thames Valley Police seeking more information about the communication masts.  The minute amount of information voiced at the Hutton Inquiry came from Mrs Kelly ... and we now know that it was wrong in detailPerhaps then at long last TVP would answer some FoI act questions on the masts.

It turned out to be a forlorn hope because I have found out that each of the two investigators asking questions were rebuffed - the police declaring that their questions were "vexatious" and not answering them!  There the matter stayed until the autumn of 2011 when I was surprised to see an answer on TVP's Freedom of Information log that at least gave some explanation about the use of the communication masts.

On the log was the response to a long multifaceted request - I have no idea about who the questioner was.  For the sake of simplicity then I shall only quote the first four questions and the responses to them:

Investigation into the death of Dr David Kelly

29 November 2011, 2:04 pm
This request, reference RFI2011000746, was received on Tuesday 20 September 2011, 2:04pm.
1. Who asked for the appearance of the masts at the Kelly household and when? 2. Which members of your force, or others, used such masts and for what purpose? 3. Who persuaded Mrs Kelly to give evidence to Hutton that the said masts were for Police communications? 4. Why did no member of your force who appeared before Hutton say a single word about the said masts?

1& 2) The area of Longworth offered no UHF coverage so officers could only communicate via VHF which was only fitted to vehicles. This was reported to our Silver Command Suite and arrangements were made to call out the on call HQ Comms staff to deploy a mast to relay the signals. They attended and deployed a 35 foot vehicle mounted “pump up” telescopic mast on the road near the Kelly house. This did not prove to be powerful enough so an 85 foot mast was then installed in the orchard of the Kelly property and the shorter one removed.
3) This question presupposes that Mrs Kelly was “persuaded”. There is no evidence to suggest this.
4) This question does not fulfil the criteria of Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as you are seeking an opinion or judgement and not access to recorded information.

No mention of Mrs Kelly's 45 foot mast, nor Mr Baker's 110 feet one.  There is evidence of an old trick here: superficially the fairly long combined response to questions 1 and 2 gives the impression of a very adequate reply.  Analyse it though and it will be seen that the question of "when were the masts requested" has been neatly avoidedThe official narrative suggests that the police activity during the night was focussed on the Kelly's home and immediate surroundings and that a more thorough search was made of the house shortly before 5 o'clock.  Clearly with officers within hailing distances of each other a tall mast would hardly be necessary at that time!

The impression given by Mrs Kelly's testimony is that the masts appeared relatively early in the proceedings.  Now we know from her evidence about the helicopter just how far out she could be on her timings.  It wasn't right to expect her to be correct on such matters though, it was up to Hutton to get precise information from police witnesses.

Thames Valley Police have yet to tell us when a decision was made to deploy a tall communication mast.  Until they come clean on this the suspicion remains that they have something to hide.

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