Election Fraud (728_16)

Request

It has been reported a number of times that a number of MP¿s (over 30 I believe) that currently hold office in the current Government and Parliament, may have spent money allocated as overall party campaigning, which should have been assigned as candidate spending. Obviously it is a constitutional and legally sensitive issue that has to be treated carefully.

I believe that your Police Force is involved in the investigations regarding alleged affected MP¿s not in your Force Area.

It is also suggested that due to time constraints within the legal process that you had to request the courts for extra time to investigate the allegations thoroughly.

Based upon this information please could you let me know which MP¿s you are investigating and what the investigation timeline is and what the key milestones are? Also, when are you likely to be publishing your findings to the Government and the wider public?

Also please could one of the Police Forces contacted by this letter let me know which one of you is investigating the allegations that the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, failed to properly declare election expenses when employed as the election agent for Conservative MP Kevin Foster.

 

Response

West Midlands Police can confirm that we are investigating allegations of electoral fraud and that there is already relevant information available in the public domain. See

 

http://www.itv.com/news/central/2016-05-14/police-investigate-alleged-electoral-fraud/

 

http://www.devonandcornwall-pcc.gov.uk/news-and-blog/devonandcornwall-pcc-news-blog/2016/05/election-expenses-investigation-to-be-carried-out-by-west-mercia-police/

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36287449

 

I am not required by statute to release all of the information requested. The remainder of the information requested above is exempt under Section 30(1) and Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).

 

Section 40 (2) Personal Information

Section 30 (1) Investigations

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

 

When citing Section 40(2), 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(2) 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 Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure.

 

Section 30 (1) Investigations

 

Harm

 

The Freedom of Information Act makes it a legal requirement that an authority has to not only provide information, unless it is exempt, but to also confirm whether or not that information is held, unless to do so would in itself provide exempt information. In this case we are able to confirm that we hold relevant information but that this information is exempt under Section 30(1).

 

Release into the public domain of information provided by or about individuals may affect the public’s perception of the investigative process and make people more reluctant to report crime in the future. Under-reporting leads to an increase in undetected crime which has an adverse effect on the community. Therefore to allow a situation to occur whereby details of investigations concerning individuals have taken place are routinely disclosed would likely to prejudice the ability of the public authority to carry out those investigations.

 

Considerations Favouring Disclosure

 

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.

 

It is the responsibility of the force to take reasonable measures to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the community it serves. This information could go some way towards reassuring the public that West Midlands Police Force are providing the support and are aware of the needs of the community .

 

Considerations Favouring Non-Disclosure

 

Release into the public domain of information provided by or about an individual may affect the public’s perception of the investigative process and make people more reluctant to report crime in the future. This would impact on the level of service the police are able to provide to the local community. Our partner agencies may be reluctant to share information in future if they are aware there is a strong possibility that information would be released.

 

Under-reporting leads to an increase in undetected crime which has an adverse effect on the community. Therefore to allow a situation to occur whereby details of investigations concerning individuals have taken place are routinely disclosed would be likely to prejudice the ability of the public authority to carry out investigations.

 

Conclusion

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. I 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.

 

However, while the public interest considerations favouring confirmation or denial are noted, this must be balanced with the impact any response would have on the operational capability of the police. Therefore it is my view protecting the ability of West Midlands Police to carry out investigations is greater importance than the advantage of public confidence from the disclosure of this information.

 

At this time, it would not be in the public interest to release this information. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could harm the public or that could compromise the future law enforcement role of the police.

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