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Heddlu Dyfed-Powys Police apologise over Freedom of Information failures

FREEDOM of Information (FoI) processes not only uphold democracy but also reinforce the very pillars of a free press.

They champion transparency, deter corruption, and empower both individuals and public bodies like the police to serve their communities more proactively. Through these processes, citizens can understand governmental activities, decisions, and expenditures, holding public officials accountable.

From a layman’s query about UFO reports in the past year to inquiries regarding staff misconduct, every FoI request is vital. Notably, public-funded entities must respond within 20 working days as legally mandated.

Such obligations, underpinned by law, bind individuals or groups to specific actions. These obligations are legally enforceable.

Most FoI requests are made through www.whatdotheyknow.com, which facilitates smooth interactions between public bodies and citizens. For example, the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service epitomizes efficient responses to such queries, highlighting the system’s potential.

Regrettably, Heddlu Dyfed-Powys Police’s performance contrasts sharply. Their profile on whatdotheyknow reveals an alarming backlog of over 150 unresolved requests, some lingering since 2020. The more probing the query, the longer they seem to dither. A particular request has languished for almost 200 days.

Questioned about these glaring oversights, Rich Davies, the Disclosure Supervisor at Police Headquarters in Carmarthen, expressed in March 2023, “It is with regret that I have to inform you that we are still having difficulties in respect of this request.

“We are also having staffing issues which is causing further delays.

“On behalf of Dyfed-Powys Police I would like to apologise for not complying with this legal requirement in respect of this matter as well as for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Back in May of this year, local AMs, Sam Kurtz and Paul Davies, had praised the recruitment of 154 new police officers within Heddlu Dyfed-Powys. Kurtz viewed this as evidence of the UK Conservative Government’s commitment to locals, while Paul Davies considered it a boon for Mid and West Wales communities.

However, the effectiveness of these additions remains questionable, with the FoI backlog appearing to snowball. The force’s commitment to addressing FoI delays is uncertain, especially since no timeline for a resolution has been presented.

Despite repeated inquiries since May, Heddlu Dyfed-Powys Police offered no clarification by our deadline about measures to rectify their FoI unit’s escalating challenges.