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A surprise from Norfolk Constabulary

Norfolk Constabulary have previously released details of their spend on the UEA emails investigation - Operation Cabin. This showed that no money had been spent on the investigation since February 2011, something that strongly suggested that the investigation was in fact closed. Despite this, the Constabulary insisted that the investigation was ongoing.

In order to probe this a little further, I requested details of man-hours spent on the investigation by month. If no man hours had been actually been clocked up over the same period then it would amount to pretty much incontrovertible evidence that everything had ground to a halt.

Today I had a response:

Norfolk Constabulary does not hold information relevant to your request.
Our Major Investigations Team have advised that whilst we have previously been able to provide details of expenditure which includes non-basic salary costs for example overtime costs, we do not record the time spent by officers and police staff on a specific investigation.
Officers and staff engaged on the investigation will have been involved in a number of other enquiries at the same time. Police officers may record details of specific activities relating to investigations within their pocket note book or their enquiry officers rough book. However, officers would not record all time spent on a particular enquiry therefore Norfolk Constabulary does not hold total hours worked by officers and staff on this investigation.

It looks to me as if there is some lawyerly wording here. If I understand correctly, they are saying that because they cannot provide accurate figures, they cannot answer my request.

I've asked them to send any details they do have.

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Reader Comments (31)

To be frank I can think of bigger surprises :)

Mar 26, 2012 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Bish, is there any real reason they would still be investigating? I don't know how a police force prioritises in practice, but pressure from influential parties, chance of prosecution and conviction, CPS input, chance of re-offence, deterrence, harm done, I can't think of anything that would promote UEAHack. I get that it's academically interesting whether they are or not, and would certainly be interesting to know what did in fact happen, but I applaud their abandonment of the case if that's what has happened!

Mar 26, 2012 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

That would chime with the notion of the case being sidelined -- it's not closed, but there are no officers 'assigned' to it.

They're all doing other things -- hassling pensioners for clearing leaves off the footpath or monitoring the responsible sale of bubblegum -- but if some new evidence were to be handed to them on a plate surrounded by doughnuts, they might put a couple of their knuckle-dragging excuses for law enforcement back on the case.

Mar 26, 2012 at 2:25 PM | Registered Commenterrickbradford

Intersting view points which say a lot about you but I am curious as to how much generalisation is there, how much of your comment is based on confirmation bias, how much of it is based on a consensus of your friends and colleagues rather than empirical investigation?
Or are they simply ad hominem comments?

My opinion is that because they are driven by targets, this investigation represents only 1 investigation and one that isn't on the top of their communities priorities but all the other crime such as burglary, theft, twoc, robbery, violence, asb etc etc are. They have simply prioritised it out of active investigation but it is still open, like countless other crimes.

Mar 26, 2012 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterSerge

This beggars belief.

There are a number of police blogs (inspectorgadget, wpcbloggs etc.) It would be worth asking them if this is standard practice.

Mar 26, 2012 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Obviously, it is a "cold case" now -- but still "active". Perhaps some "back radiation" will revive it. Or are we seeing Post Modern Forensics as well.

Mar 26, 2012 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Are they still hanging on to UEA's server - and if so, how long do they intend to hang onto the server if there is no active work being undertaken? Oh, silly me! I guess they mothball the server until UEA ask for it back?

Mar 26, 2012 at 3:24 PM | Registered Commentermatthu


If you live in the UK, you will understand that crimes such as burglary, theft and street violence are given very low priority.

That is precisely because the "targets" you mention are hard to achieve, since these types of crimes are so common and often evidence-free.

Much safer and more politically correct to arrest someone in the act of photographing a windmill, making an allegedly homophobic or sexist remark and boost the arrest figures that way.

Mar 26, 2012 at 3:46 PM | Registered Commenterrickbradford

Like AGW catastrophists themselves, ye olde Norfolk Constabulary has long since forfeited all credibility. The parsimonious explanation for this de facto abandonment of a major investigation is that Norfolk coulrophiles have succumbed to pressure by default. Quite possibly, they fear to pull the final thread, unraveling the Green Gang's twisted skein. Maybe AW like Dinsley Piranha could threaten them with sarcasm.

Mar 26, 2012 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Blake

Your Worship

I believe you may be seeing something that isn't there!

Having worked with multiple UK Police Forces over 16 years on numerous IT projects I can tell you that beyond HR recording required for statutory and payroll purposes, Forces do not have a clue how officer and civilian employees spend their time.

There is no requirement for cost accounting, no analysis of hours worked by activity, project or investigation and the very idea that officers should record time spent by activity/investigation would result in a revolution, much as a similar response is received from anyone working in the NHS.

Institutional resistance to being held accountable is endemic through both organisations. They can't respond to your enquiry because there are no records of who does what, when!

Mar 26, 2012 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterGras Albert

It is all a behind the scenes deal to keep the server under wraps so that no-one may request to review the remaining "unleaked" e-mails. Looks like it will take a Climategate III to reveal the remaining e-mails.

Mar 26, 2012 at 4:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrcrinum

The police must be seen to keep the investigation going - otherwise they will have to give the email server back to the UEA - whereupon its email backups would be available for FOI.

...I wonder how many scholarships to the UEA Acton is having to hand out to the children of the Norfolk constabulary to keep the email server out of play? (Perhaps Acton even has access to scholarships to educational institutions with non-UEA reputations).

(In contrast to the UEA data - that Tallbloke's hard drives were promptly cloned and returned - not sequestered).

Mar 26, 2012 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

@Drcrinum - snap - I didn't see your message before posting...

Mar 26, 2012 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

I wonder if they have a formalised system for classifying the status of an investigation?

There must be many different states that an investigation could be in. These states could range from determining if an investigation is warranted to awaiting CPS to make a decision about prosecuting.

It would be interesting to know what the different states are and how they determine what state an investigation is in.

Mar 26, 2012 at 4:41 PM | Registered CommenterTerryS

"we do not record the time spent by officers and police staff on a specific investigation"

No timesheets, then? And I thought all the TV cop stuff was imaginary...

Mar 26, 2012 at 4:57 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

"Justice delayed is justice denied": India has plenty of politically hot police cases endlessly delayed (till the involved have died of old age) but its Supreme Court regularly intervenes. Maybe the old colonial masters can copy this trick from the old Jewel in the Crown, as the Indian Establishment imitated the old British bag of "legal" tricks like the one above.

Mar 26, 2012 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAntonyIndia

It might be worth giving a heads up to the Audit Commission and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

Mar 26, 2012 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Franz Kafka lives!

Mar 26, 2012 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Thompson

"If I understand correctly, they are saying that because they cannot provide accurate figures, they cannot answer my request."

On the face of things, their response doesn't seem too unreasonable. FOI, to an extent, covers pre-existing information held by a public body - there are exceptions, and grey areas at the edges, but basically it's to request documents or figures that they hold. We may think the police should hold certain information, but if they don't, then it's not available to answer your request..

Mar 26, 2012 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave

Carry out our own investigation

Simple find every person who ever worked at the UEA and either resigned or got sacked either just before or just after the time of the Copenhagen Conferance

They did a really good job of sabotaging it
More than anything we could have managed

Then ask why they resigned or got sacked
And proberly find a load more extra embarassment they want to cover up

Straight forward Sherlock Holmes and CSI Will Grissom stuff

Mar 26, 2012 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

It sounds like the case doesn't have a high priority with Norfolk's finest. But at least they have provided you with a polite answer. You could ask them if anything/anybody has been eliminated from their investigations. However they probably don't know/won't say.

Mar 26, 2012 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterColdish

Bishop why not go for broke

Put out a call for any former or actual employees of UEA to come over and tell all

Even if they didnt actaully leak the Emails there must be some disgruntalled employees somewhere

An oldl saying where theres a Boss and a Bollocking theres always a Grudge

Mar 26, 2012 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Conspiracy (civil), is an agreement between persons to deceive, mislead, or defraud others of their legal rights, or to gain an unfair advantage

While violation of FOIA law is time-barred, I would think this is not so for conspiracy.

Mar 26, 2012 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarkus

I agree with the idea that having the server safely in the hands of Norfolk's finest would be UEA's preference.

But the second hypothesis is that this is a real political hot potato. The police are adept at reading these signs and choosing a politically low key way to avoid such problems. In this case if they were to drop the investigation they could get stick from a lot of people. So the easiest answer is to keep teaching the horse to sing, keep the investigation open, but not actually do anything and wait for it to die.

This explains the FOI response, because for success you'd have to NOT be caught not actually doing anything.

Mar 26, 2012 at 10:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

It could be simply that they finished their investigation. The fact that "nothing" seems to be happening could mean that they found nothing to present a prosecution on an identifiable person. Or they did, and they presented the info to the prosecuting authorities who are considering it now. They could reject a prosecution, take one up, or refer to it as "administrative" and boot it. Or, if the local fuzz found the source of the intrusion to be a website called, they could turn reigns over to James Bond. He is you top agent, right?

Mar 27, 2012 at 12:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack from USA

"they could turn reigns over to James Bond. He is you top agent, right?"

In reality, that is who would have been investigating this if anyone was interested in discovering the truth, especially as allegations were made about Russian involvement.

I would have been looking the other way. Climategate ended any possibility that the Americans would be part of a global climate deal. Leaving Europe uniquely handicapped.

Mar 27, 2012 at 2:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterE Smiff

"Police officers may record details of specific activities relating to investigations within their pocket note book or their enquiry officers rough book".

There's info in there somewhere it just needs the right question.

Mar 27, 2012 at 6:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Ah so they don't record time spent doing work? A really extremely efficient way to run any organisation?

Mar 27, 2012 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

What would be the significance if the investigation is indeed closed? Would the public then gain access to new UEA emails or something ?

Apr 1, 2012 at 7:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterPunksta

The data on the server should then become FOIable, because no longer part of the police investigation.

Apr 1, 2012 at 8:06 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I served 30 years in the Police and I can assure you that, under today's target-driven, managerial-statistics-mad regime, the Norfolk Constabulary are either lying in their teeth or they are disobeying some very stringent edicts from the Home Office. The edicts are still in place despite the protestations from Theresa May about doing away with 'targets'.
The police in England can state, quite categorically, just how many man-hours have been spent on any investigation; it's all logged on each and every crime file compiled. How do you think a charge of Wasting Police Time can be brought otherwise?

Mar 6, 2013 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterRetired Chief Inspector

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