Breaches of Electoral Rules (1604_15)

Request

How many police investigations have there been into breaches of electoral rules in the build-up to the General Election in May 2015? (dating back to May 1, 2014)

For each of these please detail the following:

Date, summary of reported breach, action taken by police, were there any arrests, and if so, please provide the age and gender of those arrested as well as what they were arrested for.

Also, if any of the alleged offenders were prosecuted please name them and the charge.

Response

We can confirm that some relevant information is held by West Midlands Police. However, while the majority of the information is attached to this email I am afraid that I am not required by statute to release all of the information requested. Please find attached document. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) for the parts of the document that have not been released.

REASONS FOR DECISION

The Freedom of Information Act places two responsibilities on public authorities, the first of which is to confirm what information it holds and secondly to then disclose that information, unless exemptions apply.

In this case West Midlands Police will neither confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation by virtue of

Section 40(5) – Personal Information

Section 30(3) – Investigations

These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:

http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/docs/advice-centre/foi/exemptions.pdf

When citing Section 40(5), there is a requirement to consider whether disclosure would breach one of the Data Protection Principles, and in this case the first principle of fairness would be breached. In these circumstances Section 40(5) is classed as absolute and there is no requirement to consider the public interest.

In line with the above, I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure. Please find this PIT below.

West Midlands Police can neither confirm nor deny that it holds any other information pertinent to this request as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply by virtue of the following exemptions:

Section 40(5) Personal Information

Section 30(3) Investigations

In this case Section 40 is a class based absolute exemption.  In this case, it would be the first principle that is breached inasmuch as personal information must be fairly and lawfully processed.

Section 30 is a class based qualified exemption and consideration of the public interest must be given as to whether neither confirming nor denying that information exists is the appropriate response.

Section 30 Public Interest Considerations

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a)

Confirming whether any other information exists relevant to this request would lead to a better informed general public identifying that West Midlands Police robustly investigate allegations of breaches of electoral rules which may encourage individuals to provide intelligence in order to assist with investigations and reduce crime. This would further promote public trust in providing transparency and demonstrating openness and accountability into where the police are currently focusing their investigations. The public are also entitled to know how public funds are spent, particularly in the current economic climate.

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a)

Under FOI there is a requirement to comply with Section 1(1)(a) and confirm what information is held. In some cases it is that confirmation that an incident took place which could disclose facts which would be harmful to either an individual or an investigation. In those cases public authorities would then take advantage of its ability under FOI legislation to, where appropriate, neither confirm nor deny that any other information relevant to the request is or is not held.

In this case, to confirm or not whether any other information is held relating to police investigations into breaches of electoral rules would hinder the prevention and detection of crime as well as undermine the partnership approach to investigations and law enforcement.

The effective delivery of operational law enforcement takes priority and is at the forefront of West Midlands Police to ensure the prevention and detection of crime is carried out and the effective apprehensive or prosecution of offenders is maintained.

Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test for confirming, nor denying, that any other information exists is not made out.

No inference can be taken from this refusal that the information you have requested does or does not exist.

Attachments

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