Deaths In Custody (8956/17)

Request

In respect of the article in the Coventry Telegraph regarding deaths in custody I would like details of why the 16 people referred to were in custody and whether there was any body worn video footage that relates to them being held in custody.

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 see attached. 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, this letter represents a Refusal Notice for the redacted parts of the attached document. The information is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions

Section 31(1)(g)  – Law enforcement

Section 40(2) – Personal Information

These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:

https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/information-management/freedom-of-information/#freedom-of-information-exemptions

In line with the above, I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure. Please find this PIT attached (8956_01).

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.

HARM

Information compiled for the purposes of an investigation, be it a criminal investigation or internal misconduct hearing, may contain information obtained from individuals to assist with an investigation, which would be in confidence. To disclose investigative information could dissuade people from providing information to the police in future. The public, be they general members of the public or internal police officers or staff, must have confidence that their information is treated sensitively and appropriately. Disclosure of that information could lead to ‘trial by media’ as it is likely to identify any officers that may or may not be involved.

Factors favouring disclosure S31

Disclosure of the information would provide a better awareness which may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public as well as provide transparency and satisfaction to the public that such investigations are conducted properly.

Factors favouring non-disclosure S31

To release the requested information would undermine and compromise the authorities approach to law enforcement in relation to the investigation of such matters as a consequence of which any investigation would be prejudiced.  The requested information may contain details of ongoing investigations by our Professional Standards Department or the IPCC, therefore to disclose any information in relation to these matters would or would be likely to prejudice these investigations.  This would have an adverse effect not only on any individuals involved, but also West Midlands Police Force.

Balancing Test

The strongest argument for release are public awareness, this needs to be weighed against the strongest argument for non-release, which in this case is effective law enforcement.

Effective law enforcement is the core function of the police service and is of paramount importance.  The force has a duty to ensure that it does not disclose information that would undermine or compromise its approach to law enforcement, which would result in an investigation being prejudiced and an individual’s right to a fair trial or investigation being undermined and the force failing in adhering to the policing purpose.  The police service will never disclose information that places the public or it’s staff at risk, unless the public interest in doing so is more powerful that that risk.  In this case there would be no tangible benefit by which the release of the information which is the main focus in considering the public interest.

Therefore in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

Attachments

8956_attachment_01

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