This is the final episode of the mini-series. The story so far – I want the measurements for a box. The Ministry of Defence have said I can’t have it, actually when you put it like that it this doesn’t sound very interesting does it? Okay. This is a story about one mans valiant attempt to take on the giants of government, seeking the truth from the mysterious and dark world of the Ministry of Defence in the hope that others may have a more dignified final ceremony … (say this in an american Hollywood voice-over style for more effect).
So here is Part 1 and Part 2
After the last set back I thought I would try one last-ditch attempt.
Sorry to sound impersonal there was no signatory to the letter. I don’t wish to complain, I am however a little perplexed. I don’t doubt you are correct that you are within your rights not allow access to a paragraph, even though letting me know would help members of the armed forces satisfy the wishes of armed forces – so the MODs approach seems somehow odd? Just because you can say no does not mean you should.
I am fairly au fait* with FOI – isn’t the presumption to give people the information if you can? I am now intrigued – does paragraph contain some national secret that the nation needs to be protected from. Or is it only paper copy and it would be inconvenient and time consuming to send me. I would be willing to come and read it.
How about I offer to make a donation to the Royal Navy Benevolent Fund if you help me? Hopefully that is not considered bribery.
So I shall try one last plea – Please let me have the text from the paragraph.
Your humble servant
* I spelt this wrong in my original email and now trying to cover up my ignorance.
Anyway you will see my tone has become a bit less reverent although I hope not rude in anyway.
I got the following response.
14 January 2014
Dear Mr Martin,
Thank you for your email of 9 January 2014 regarding our response to your FOI request (FOI 18-112013-135322-002
It is regretful that the response to your FOI request has not met your expectations. However your most recent email indicates
to me a misunderstanding of the process that the MOD instigates on the loss of a Serviceman or woman.
I hope to clarify this herewith.
As I explained in my first letter to you, when an individual dies during their Service, they are provided
with a military funeral (or cremation) if their next-of-kin (NOK) indicates a desire for such. A military funeral is paid for by the MOD and follows specific rules as set out Volume 2 of Joint Service Publication (JSP) 751. If the NOK prefers to have a private (non military) funeral or cremation, they are free to do so, and the MOD will offer assistance, including financial support for this, also stipulated in JSP751. A grieving family who wished to make use of the services provided by your company for a private ceremony would have the freedom of choice to do so.
The NOK and family are provided with a serving, commissioned ‘Visiting Officer’ (VO) to help them with these arrangements, and therefore have access to the advice they might need. The VO has appropriate training and ready access to JSP751, so I do not fully follow your line that, were we able, to provide you with information contained in the JSP it would better ‘satisfy the wishes of the armed forces’. This, when compared to a fully trained and briefed VO (who would most likely be familiar with the area the deceased was posted to).
I turn now to our advice that JSP751 is exempt for release under the FOI Act 2000. This document remains at a restricted level due to the sensitivity of the subject and is kept under constant review; government policy influences, and may be influenced by, the JSP in question. The FOIA does not require us to justify our refusal to release or declassify the document further.
Should you wish to make a contribution to a defence charity, that choice is yours and whichever one you were to choose would be undoubtedly grateful; however, it will have no bearing on nor alter the advice provided to you.
Mr X X XXXXXXXXX
Defence Personnel Secretariat
Oh – Oh well never mind. At this point, slightly exasperated, I decided to throw in the towel.
Dear Mr XXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Thank you very much for again taking the trouble to write to me and whilst I may disagree with what you are saying your time is genuinely appreciated.
I think will shall leave it there, I don’t think it right to take up more officials time in dealing with this issue.
Death is a important matter and it it is clear that you take the welfare of ex-service personnel very seriously.
I hope perhaps that I may yet get to find out what I am after, as I still strongly feel it bring benefit and comfort to those in need. Although I see now clearly this is not the route.
So is there a moral to the story, perhaps that we say we are an open society, but don’t test it or scratch the surface. Trouble is here, you are only getting my biased take on it. I am sure the gentlemen responding would look at this from an entirely different prism perhaps no less valid than my own.
Still I was only after the dimensions of a box, a reasonable enough request isn’t it?
However if you do read this and access to the paragraph from this document I would like to let people know …