Consultant Expenditure (3251_13)

Request

Total expenditure of Consultants Fees for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and where expenditure is over £10,000, the name of the supplier and type of advice (e.g. ‘continuous improvement’, ‘IT’, ‘Business partnering for Police’) with total amount spent for each year.

Response

We can confirm that 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 a redacted document.

Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act places two duties on public authorities.  Unless exemptions apply, the first duty at s1(1)(a) is to confirm or deny whether the information specified in a request is held.  The second duty at s1(1)(b) is to disclose information that has been confirmed as being held.  Where exemptions are relied upon section 17 of the Act requires that we provide the applicant with a notice which: a) states that fact b) specifies the exemption(s) in question and c) states (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.

In accordance with the Act, this letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) for the information that has not been released. The information is exempt by virtue of Section 31 (1) (a) (b).

This exemption and explanatory notes is shown here:

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

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

Harm

The withheld information provides details of sensitive work undertaken by a number of companies on behalf of West Midlands Police. This work relates to the security of West Midlands Police and to the use of sensitive techniques.

To put this information into the public domain would provide knowledge of the use of certain law enforcement techniques and level of resources allocated to them. This information could undermine policing operations and would allow criminals to be more effective in avoiding detection and/or prosecution by altering their behaviour to counter the law enforcement response.

In addition this information could be used by criminals try to undermine the security of West Midlands Police. Naming the companies involved would risk their security and could allow those with criminal intent to try to infiltrate these organisations in order to gain intelligence on West Midlands Police.

Therefore the information has the potential to assist those considering major crimes, which could lead to significant harm to members of the public and to the security of the country.

Considerations favouring release of the information

Disclosing this information would provide greater transparency in policing and the actions of a West Midlands Police. 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.

Police officers need to be properly equipped in order to meet the demands placed upon them. This information could go some way towards reassuring the public that the police service is prepared and effective and that public money is being spent appropriately.

Considerations favouring withholding the information

Releasing this information into the public domain would compromise the current and future law enforcement role of the force. It would likely allow offenders to change their tactics in order to avoid detection and prosecution.

Where the current or future law enforcement role of the force may be compromised by the release of information, then this is unlikely to be in the interest of the public. In this case, for the reasons outlined above, providing information on specific techniques and security measures would hinder the prevention and detection of crime.

There is an inherently strong public interest in public authorities carrying out investigations to prevent and detect crime. To allow the effectiveness of investigations to be reduced, as described in the harm above, is not in the public interest. West Midlands Police need to be allowed to investigate crime effectively and ensure that offenders are brought to justice. To release this information would provide offenders with an operational advantage over the WMP.

Balancing Test

In considering the public interest in relation to Section 31(1) I have balanced the factors in relation to transparency and accountability against the public interest in ensuring that West Midlands Police are able to appropriately enforce the law and ensuring that offenders are prosecuted.

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.

We recognise that the public interest in being open and transparent is of great importance to all and release of information may assist in the public being more aware of the work that the police are carrying out. Where information does not impact on any future possible investigation, or where the detriment is not large, there is a public interest in providing information to ensure greater transparency.

However, while the public interest considerations favouring disclosure are noted, this must be balanced with the impact any release would have on the operational capability of the police. With respect to the release of this information it is considered that the wider public interest lies in protecting the ability of WMP to protect the public and enforce the law without compromising any investigation or law enforcement technique.

The Freedom of Information Act is applicant blind. This means that if we were to accede to the request, we would be obliged to make this information available to everyone. It has been well documented that criminals will use every advantage they can gain to successfully carry out their criminality. In this case this could encourage further offences to be committed by allowing criminals to counteract police measures by accurately predicting them.

Having considered the arguments for and against release, the public interest test favours non-release of material which directly impacts on the security of West Midlands Police or future operations and investigations. The greater public interest is served in maintaining the integrity of the justice process, and this in turn favours maintaining the exemption in relation to the withheld material. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could compromise the safety of the public or the future law enforcement role of the force.

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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