Sunday, 5 August 2012

The search helicopter - FoI request (1)

In 2011 Thames Valley Police published responses to Freedom of Information requests about the search helicopter.  This is the first one:

08 March 2011, 11:38 am
This request, reference RFI2010000727, was received on Tuesday 26 October 2010, 11:38am.
1) I wish to make a Freedom of Information request regarding the log of the Police Helicopter with respect to the search for Dr. David Kelly after the report that he was missing (approx. 23.40 on 17th July 2003, I understand). I ask for a copy of the Police helicopter log for the relevant search and for the following specific information 2) At what time did the helicopter begin to search for heat sources? 3) Further, I wish to ask if the helicopter surveyed Harrowdown Hill, if so at what time Harrowdown Hill was surveyed and if any heat source was identified there. 4) Finally, I ask for identification of the make and model of the heat seeking equipment in the helicopter and the date/time on which it was last tested prior to the search of interest.
1&2) Please see via the below PDF document a copy of two helicopter logs.  Within this document, some information has been redacted.  
The exemptions applicable to the redacted information are:
Section 30(1)(a)(b)(c) – Investigations and proceedings conducted by a public authority.
Section 40(2) – Personal Data.
Section 40 is a class based absolute exemption and as such the legislators have identified that there would be harm in disclosure and there is not need to evidence this.
Section 30 is prejudiced based qualified exemption which requires the prejudice (harm) to be evidenced.
Several types of harm may be generated by the disclosure of the redacted information within the helicopter logs.  Future police operations may be prejudiced if operational information is inappropriately disclosed into the public domain.  This may ultimately result in safety implications for the general public and police officers, placing the well being of citizens at risk and compromise the ability of the force to prevent and detect crime and protect life and/or property.
The helicopter logs also detail deployment times.
3) The helicopter crew were asked to survey an area which included Harrowdown Hill. There were no relevant heat sources identified. The thermal imagers fitted to police helicopters in 2003 were not penetrative. In the case of woods or copses, unless it is winter or the woods are sparsely populated with trees, the leaf canopies and branches very often preclude any meaningful thermal imager search as the thermal imager cannot penetrate the leaf canopy.
4) The camera used was a FLIR Leo 2. The camera is subject to routine maintenance in line with aircraft maintenance schedules. It was working correctly at the time of the incident. It was last serviced on 27th June 2003. opens the helicopter logs.

The 10.25 to 11.00 entry in the log isn't part of the search operation and, although very important, doesn't relate to this post.

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