TVP joined Kelly campaign FB group
By Miles Goslett And Abul Taher
PUBLISHED: 01:23, 11 March 2012 UPDATED: 01:23, 11 March 2012
A police force has been accused of illegally accessing information from a Facebook group that is campaigning for an inquest into the death of weapons inspector Dr David Kelly.
At a tribunal next month, Thames Valley Police, which conducted the original investigation into Dr Kelly's death, will be forced to explain how it obtained information from the private site.
Activists claim the force hacked into the Facebook page of a group called 'Dr David Kelly and related matters of international importance'.
The force has denied the claim and said the information was taken from publicly available sources.
Thames Valley Police is said to have accessed the page to find evidence to support its decision to refuse a Freedom of Information request by one of the group's members, Peter Beswick.
The evidence was sent to the Information Commissioner's Office, the appeals body for all refused FOI requests.
The ICO upheld Thames Valley's decision, but in its judgment mentioned the Facebook page, and even quoted a posting made by Mr Beswick which was obtained by police.
Mr Beswick and other members of the group believe the information was accessed improperly, and will demand an explanation at the tribunal, where they will appeal against the ICO's decision.
The allegation comes as the Metropolitan Police is conducting a high-profile investigation into allegations that journalists hacked into private voicemails and email accounts.
Mr Beswick made his original request to Thames Valley Police last August, asking a series of questions about Dr Kelly, who was found dead in woods near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003.
No full inquest has ever been held because the then Labour government ruled that the Hutton Inquiry into his death was sufficient.
Thames Valley refused to answer Mr Beswick's FOI questions on its original investigation into Dr Kelly's death. It said his request was 'vexatious' and would be 'too expensive and time-consuming'.
Mr Beswick appealed to the ICO, which last month sent him a 16-page document upholding Thames Valley's decision.
But the document says Thames Valley alerted the ICO to the existence of the Facebook page called 'Dr David Kelly and related matters of international importance'.
It then quoted a line from the page – made by Mr Beswick under his alias Hampshire Hog – which reads: 'The Information Commissioner is currently making a decision into whether or not my FOI request regarding the position of DK's [David Kelly] body to TVP [Thames Valley Police] was vexatious.'
The group claims Thames Valley could have read this line only by illegally accessing the Facebook page.
The force said it had not accessed the page but had found the quote in a similar Facebook page called 'Re-open the Inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly'.
But a search by Mr Beswick has failed to find any evidence of the quote anywhere else on Facebook.
And in an email to Mr Beswick, ICO officer Jonathan Slee states: 'In relation to the Facebook group – which I did note was a closed group – my understanding is that TVP have joined this group in order to access the material it provided as part of its submissions.'
Links to the Facebook groups concerned (log-in required):
RE-OPEN THE INQUEST INTO THE DEATH OF Dr DAVID KELLY
DR DAVID KELLY AND RELATED MATTERS OF INTERNATIONAL IMPORTANCE (closed group):