I wish to make a freedom of information request relating to the apparent refusal of The National Archives (TNA) to take into their possession the following Historical Metropolitan Police records namely
‘Chief Constables CID Register (Special Branch) 1888-1892.’
‘Metropolitan Police Ledgers Special Account Vols 1-3 1888-1894’
I wish to know the dates, and what discussions were held between the police and TNA, and what advice the TNA gave the police regarding the question of them taking the registers and ledgers, and in what form the ledgers and registers were offered to them. and what TNA’s decision was and how that decision was arrived at?”
Dear [name retracted]
Thank you for your enquiry of 9 March 2015.
Your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). The FOI Act gives you the right to know whether we hold the information you want and to have it communicated to you. I can confirm that The National Archives holds information relevant to your request.
Please see below our response to the questions posed within your request, which we have taken from information we hold and from details confirmed by Metropolitan Police regarding the current status of this material.
Selection of records:
In terms of the process of making a selection decision and how this decision is arrived at, our website contains details of this process for example our best practice guide for appraising and selecting records. This explains that:
Under the Public Records Act 1958:
- public records bodies are responsible for the selection of records of archival value and for the safekeeping of these records
- The National Archives is responsible for coordinating and supervising this process by providing guidance and support
What this means in practice is that:
- Departments (specifically the departmental records officer or equivalent and their team) plan, manage, carry out appraisal and selection of their records and document the process in line with The National Archives’ Records Collection Policy and supporting guidance
- The National Archives (specifically through the information management consultants) monitors this process, provides advice, guidance and training to support departments and signs off selected records
I have summarised this process for the two registers you are interested in a timeline below; beginning in 2002 and ending in 2014. This includes the information on the dates these discussions took place, along with the specifics of the deliberations, the advice provided regarding the preservation question and concludes with the final decision and current status of the registers.
Timeline: dates & details of discussion between TNA and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS):
- December 2002: The two sets of registers you have enquired about fall within a collection identified in 2002 as ‘unregistered records’ or ‘miscellaneous records’ dating from 1884 -1987 and held by the Metropolitan Police. This collection was fully appraised by the Metropolitan Police records team in late 2002 and early 2003.
- January – September 2003: After appraisal by Metropolitan Police discussions were conducted between their Assistant Departmental Record Officer and the Information Management Consultant (TNA) to determine whether to select records from within this collection (which included these two sets of registers) and if selected for permanent preservation whether to transfer to TNA.
- September 2003: Preliminary decisions were made by Metropolitan Police to dispose of the registers following advice and agreement that these did not fall within the categories of information that would normally be selected, the information was deemed to be of a routine nature and not of interest to TNA (modern equivalents would not be selected).
- October 2003: It was confirmed that while these registers fell into a category of record that would not normally be selected it was still a decision that was open to discussion, with regards to whether they would be kept at TNA or potentially offered/kept at the MPS Museum (given the age of the records/historical interest). There was to be further consideration on this matter pending formulation of a new draft policy on the selection and disposition for Metropolitan Police Records, which was to be made available on-line for professional and public consideration.
- June 2004: OSP 29 OPERATIONAL SELECTION POLICY OSP29 Metropolitan Police Service, Records created by the MPS and records related to the MPS, created by the Home Office – was published. As explained in this document “Operational Selection Policies are intended to be working tools, providing clear direction for those who are making review decisions. They may therefore be revised at any time in the light of comments from record users or archive professionals or the experience of the organisation using the policy or as a result of newly discovered information or the creation of a new record type or series.”
- November/December 2005: In line with the selection Policy it was confirmed that the position with the registers would remain as agreed in September 2003; they would not be selected for permanent preservation and were to be disposed of by Metropolitan Police.
- December 2005: This decision was formalised by Metropolitan Police when they applied for administration retention under criteria .1 For an explanation of administration retention see page 24 of our Access Manual:
- Criteria 1 – Records or series of records which have not been selected for transfer to The National Archives or a place of deposit, but which the department has retained after they are defined as historical records because they are required for its own administrative purposes.
- This retention covered a period of five years – up to 2010 in order to maintain them, pending any appeals on the decisions to preserve this material.
- 2005 – 2012: Position remained unchanged and any further discussions or responses reiterate that it is the decision of Metropolitan Police to dispose of these registers.
- July 2011: The last appeal Tribunal decision was concluded. Metropolitan Police have confirmed as a result of the Tribunal, the registers were kept in line with Metropolitan Police retention policy that the registers were to be retained for a period of two years after the last request to view them, which expired 18th November 2013.
- January 2014: Metropolitan Police have also confirmed that the registers were disposed of at New Scotland Yard on 6 January 2014.
As stipulated by the Section 46 code of practice (FOI Act, 2000),
“disposal means the decision as to whether the record should be destroyed, transferred to an archives service for permanent preservation or presented, 14 and the putting into effect of that decision”.
It further explains that the destruction of records should be documented:
12.13 Details of destruction of records should be kept, either as part of the audit trail metadata or separately. Ideally, some evidence of destruction should be kept indefinitely because the previous existence of records may be relevant information. However, the level of detail and for how long it should be kept will depend on an assessment of the costs and the risks to the authority if detailed information cannot be produced on request.
If you wish to know more about the specifics of the disposal of these registers, please write to Metropolitan Police to request these details. You can contact them directly at:
Freedom of Information
Empress State Building
London SW6 1TR
This concludes your FOI request.
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request or the decision which has been reached, you have the right to ask for an internal review. You have the right to ask the Information Commissioner (ICO) to investigate any aspect of your complaint. However, please note that the ICO is likely to expect internal complaints procedures to have been exhausted before beginning his investigation. Internal review requests must be submitted within two months of the date of this response and should be addressed to:
Public Services Development Unit
The National Archives
Freedom of Information Manager
Freedom of Information Centre
Information Management and Practice Department
The National Archives