Since lights in the sky were seen after sunset in December 2018, which closed down Gatwick airport with the assertion there was definitely a drone or drones, it has come to light that the Department for Transport (DfT) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) were never given a description of the alleged drone and Sussex Police have never released a description, though it was “believed” the devices were of industrial specification.
#GatwickDrones | The #drone image in our previous tweets was used for illustrative purposes only and not the devices being sought. It is believed that the #Gatwick devices used are of an industrial specification. We are continuing to search for the operators pic.twitter.com/NBW6Oh1M3c
— Sussex Police (@sussex_police) December 20, 2018
A description was promised to the media but never made the light of day, the description seems to have done a vanishing act, much like Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley did shortly after he revealed on a live BBC interview there may have never been a drone.
So there’s no colour, or behaviour, such as fast or slow, or any indication of the distance it was seen at, albeit evidence given by the then Sussex police chief constable, Giles York, suggested at a parliamentary defence committee that the visual sightings were of something over half a mile away.
Gatwick Airport, I know looking behind me is a huge area. It’s a huge area and you try and tell me what a drone half a mile away at the other end of the runway looks like from here.
Logic would suggest that Sussex police would want to release a description of these menacing industrial devices so that the public could report any drones they’ve ever seen that match the description, but no, Sussex police for some reason want to deflect any questioning on this topic.
A recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, FOI 3516/21 is worth a read, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the requester, a Mr Onyeche, he’s asking a perfectly reasonable question.
To comply with the application of Section 40(2) of Freedom of Information Act 2000 “Personal Data”, and to favour disclosure – I request that you please ensure that any personal information relating to the witnesses, are redacted, to prevent any possibility of the identification of witnesses, and so as to remain lawful under the terms of the 1st and 2nd Principles of the Data Protection Act 1998. My request for the eye witness anecdotal descriptions of the drone, its movement, its speed, and its distance, would not disclose personal data or breach data protection laws. This information about the unsolved, disruptive and highly costly Gatwick “drone” incident can be released by Sussex Police, whilst simultaneously safeguarding the identities and confidential information of all witnesses, and without compromising any future prosecution case of any alleged perpetrator of the Gatwick “drone” incident.
It is clear with this request and others that Sussex Police are not embracing the spirit of the FOIA, the legislation requires that the authority being quizzed offer assistance, yet here the force has tried to block the request with Section 40 (2) Personal Information, yet they must know full well redactions can be applied over the witness details and the force could have progressed this request without any fuss. Forces throughout the UK routinely complete FOIAs providing incident logs with redactions on personal details.
Mr Onyeche in his reply has countered this, himself explaining that the force merely needs to redact anything but the description of the drone, we see though his request was still rejected under Section 30 Investigations and it will be for the ICO to consider if this is truly valid in this case or merely a means to act in bad faith and hinder the public interest.
While it will likely fall on deaf ears, the tax payers in Sussex, those passengers that were left stranded and the drone community will no doubt share Mr Onyeche’s sentiments.
My final comment on your latest response to my Gatwick “drone” FOI is – I still believe it would be in the public interest for Sussex Police to release any anecdotal descriptions there are of the Gatwick “drone” as documented in the witness statements. Sussex Police have admitted on several occasions since September 2019 that there are “no current or realistic lines of enquiry”, hence providing the anecdotal descriptions of the Gatwick “drone” as documented in the witness statements could open up new lines of enquiry, potentially leading to the perpetrator being identified (given that Sussex Police have not revoked their public standpoint from the time of the event that they assessed there was definitely a “drone” observed at Gatwick – and it was not simply a case of mis-identification by witnesses).
It’s time to end Sussex Police and UK Government Authorities embargo on the truth – the public have a right to know the full nature of the highly disruptive, costly and (if Authorities are to be believed as implied by their response at that time) potentially dangerous events that caused the cessation of flights over several days at Gatwick Airport in December 2018.