Child Sexual Activity (680_15)

Request

I would like the figures for the number of under 18s reported to your force for sexual activity with a child under 16, for the last three calendar years (2014,2013,2012)

A.      For each case, please outline details of the allegation

B.      The age of the children involved (both victim and alleged offender)

C.      The outcome of the allegation (be it resolved with parents locally, NFA, prosecution etc.)

(I believe the crime codes are 22/12 (s/v), 23/13 (s/v), 22/22 (s/v), 22/23 (s/v) )

2.       I would like the figures for the number of under 18s reported for causing a child under 16 to watch a sexual act, for the last three calendar years.

A.      For each case, please outline details of the allegation

B.      The age of the children involved (both victim and alleged offender)

C.      The outcome of the allegation (be it resolved with parents locally, NFA,

prosecutions etc)

(I believe the crime code is 22/17 (s/v) )

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. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).

Please note that some information in the attached document is missing, this is due to the information not being recorded.  Some of ages are showing as over 18, this is because the incident has been reported by a third party.

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, this letter represents a Refusal Notice.  The information is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions

Section 30 (1) (a) Investigations

Section 40 (2) Personal Data

These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:

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

Section 40 (2) is an absolute and class based exemption if to release the information exists would breach the third party’s data protection rights.  In this case to release this personal information would not constitute fair processing of the data and therefore would breach the first of the principles within the Data Protection Act 1998. As this exemption is class based I am not required to identify the harm in disclosure and in this instance I believe that the right to privacy outweighs any public interest in release.

With reference to Section 30 (1) (a) I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure.

Section 30 (1) (a) (b)

Harm

Release of information through the Freedom of Information Act removes any of the legal strictures and assumptions of confidentiality associated with the due legal process. As a consequence any ongoing or subsequent court proceedings could be jeopardised where release of information regarding an individual was identified.

Considerations that favour confirming or denying

Disclosing information about investigations would provide a greater transparency in the investigating process and the actions of a public authority. It is clear that there is a public interest in public authorities operating in as transparent a manner as possible, as this should ensure they operate effectively and efficiently. Confirming the existence of an investigation could help to ensure that authorities do not overlook issues which they should investigate or that they have good reasons for not investigating.

Considerations against confirming or denying

There is an inherently strong public interest in public authorities carrying out investigations to prevent and detect crime. This ensures that offenders are brought to justice and that the necessary checks and balances are in place to safeguard public funds and resources. To allow the effectiveness of investigations to be reduced, as described in the harm above, is not in the public interest. The Police Service needs to be allowed to carry out investigations effectively away from public scrutiny until such times as the details need to be made public, otherwise it will be difficult for accurate, thorough and objective investigations to be carried out.

It would not be in the public interest to release information that may interfere with court proceedings or prevent an individual from being brought to justice.  The right to a fair trial is of paramount importance and any disclosure which could enhance media attention prior to any proceedings could compromise an individual’s right to a fair trial under the Human Rights Act.

Balancing Test

For a public interest test, issues that favour release need to be measured against issues that favour non-disclosure. The public interest is not what interests the public, or a particular individual, but what will be the greater good, if released, to the community as a whole.

The issue of transparency is noted. However, on balance it is considered that the public interest in providing the information is outweighed by the potential impact release would have on individual’s privacy and on future law enforcement activities. While the information that is already in the public domain has been released, to release further information could interfere with court processes.

Although placing this information into the public domain may provide greater transparency in the investigating process, there are already a number of checks and balances on authorities to assess whether investigations are conducted appropriately. There are legal processes in place to ensure that all parties are given access to all the appropriate information at the time of any trial and subsequently through court records. In addition if a person feels that they have been treated inappropriately by the police there are clear processes in place to ensure that matters are investigated thoroughly and appropriately.

Releasing information outside of such a schedule could undermine the smooth running of these processes and would impact on future judicial proceedings. Therefore the wider public interest lies in protecting the ability of the public authority to conduct an effective investigation and consider the outcome.

Having considered the arguments for and against, the public interest test favours maintaining the exclusion of the duty to confirm or deny whether the information exists. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could reveal personal information or could compromise the future law enforcement role of the force.

The figures provided therefore are our best interpretation of relevance of data to your request, but you should be aware that the collation of figures for ad hoc requests may have limitations and this should be taken into account when those data are used.

If you decide to write an article / use the enclosed data we would ask you to take into consideration the factors highlighted in this document so as to not mislead members of the public or official bodies, or misrepresent the relevance of the whole or any part of this disclosed material.

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