Freedom of Information requests are typically used by journalists and members of the public to find out more about government and local councils. They played a key role in the recent MPs expenses claims stories.
However, the request, which was answered last week, must rank as one of the most unusual to have been handled by a public body.
The person who made the request also wanted descriptions of supernatural sightings in Coalisland, as well as the details of police investigations into UFOs and other unexplained phenomena.
The request was refused on the grounds that there were no specific categories on PSNI systems which the requested information fell under.
For those living in the Coalisland area it might be a source of anxiety to learn that it would take police staff more than 22 hours to sift through all the reports of suspicious activity made in that area in 2008.
However, police were unable to say how many of the 2000-plus suspicious incidents involved witches, zombies, vampires or aliens.
According to the PSNI’s response to the FOI request, the cost of providing the information would exceed the “appropriate costs limit” under Section 12(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which is currently set by the Secretary of State at £450 (18 hours).
“There are no specific categories on PSNI systems which the requested information falls under”, said the police in their formal response to the request.
“Searches would have to be carried out under a very broad range of recorded incidents including “suspicious activity”. There are well in excess of 2000 such entries for 2008, each requiring at least 2 minutes to examine.
“The relevant District has advised that retrieval of the requested information for that year alone would take an estimated 22 hours.”
Source: Tyrone Times