Scientists in stolen e-mail scandal hid climate data
- From: HardySpicer <gyansorova@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 28 Jan 2010 10:58:24 -0800 (PST)
The university at the centre of the climate change row over stolen e-
mails broke the law by refusing to hand over its raw data for public
The University of East Anglia breached the Freedom of Information Act
by refusing to comply with requests for data concerning claims by its
scientists that man-made emissions were causing global warming.
The Information Commissioner’s Office decided that UEA failed in its
duties under the Act but said that it could not prosecute those
involved because the complaint was made too late, The Times has
learnt. The ICO is now seeking to change the law to allow prosecutions
if a complaint is made more than six months after a breach.
The stolen e-mails , revealed on the eve of the Copenhagen summit,
showed how the university’s Climatic Research Unit attempted to thwart
requests for scientific data and other information, and suggest that
senior figures at the university were involved in decisions to refuse
the requests. It is not known who stole the e-mails.
* E-mails reveal climate of secrecy
* Research is robust but communication is weak
* Commissioner has power, but not resources
* Graphic: defending the hockey stick theory
Professor Phil Jones, the unit’s director, stood down while an inquiry
took place. The ICO’s decision could make it difficult for him to
resume his post.
Details of the breach emerged the day after John Beddington, the Chief
Scientific Adviser, warned that there was an urgent need for more
honesty about the uncertainty of some predictions. His intervention
followed admissions from scientists that the rate of glacial melt in
the Himalayas had been grossly exaggerated.
In one e-mail, Professor Jones asked a colleague to delete e-mails
relating to the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
He also told a colleague that he had persuaded the university
authorities to ignore information requests under the act from people
linked to a website run by climate sceptics.
A spokesman for the ICO said: “The legislation prevents us from taking
any action but from looking at the emails it’s clear to us a breach
has occurred.” Breaches of the act are punishable by an unlimited
The complaint to the ICO was made by David Holland, a retired engineer
from Northampton. He had been seeking information to support his
theory that the unit broke the IPCC’s rules to discredit sceptic
In a statement, Graham Smith, Deputy Commissioner at the ICO, said:
“The e-mails which are now public reveal that Mr Holland’s requests
under the Freedom of Information Act were not dealt with as they
should have been under the legislation. Section 77 of the Act makes it
an offence for public authorities to act so as to prevent
intentionally the disclosure of requested information.”
He added: “The ICO is gathering evidence from this and other time-
barred cases to support the case for a change in the law. We will be
advising the university about the importance of effective records
management and their legal obligations in respect of future requests
Mr Holland said: “There is an apparent Catch-22 here. The prosecution
has to be initiated within six months but you have to exhaust the
university’s complaints procedure before the commission will look at
your complaint. That process can take longer than six months.”
The university said: “The way freedom of information requests have
been handled is one of the main areas being explored by Sir Muir
Russell’s independent review. The findings will be made public and we
will act as appropriate on its recommendations.”
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