Foreign Nationals (4664_14)

Request

Please can you provide the following information regarding foreign nationals, for the calendar years 2012 and 2013

  1. The number of each nationality charged

Please see attached table

Response

Please note that these data should be interpreted with caution. Comparing numbers of crimes can be misleading and does not necessarily indicate the likelihood of someone being a victim of crime. In addition, the number of incidents/crimes recorded in an area over a period of time can be influenced by a number of factors. Consequently statistics on incidents/crimes for one period may not necessarily be a good indicator of future incidents in that area.

Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from a number of data sources used by forces for police purposes. The detail collected to respond specifically to your request is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when interpreting those data.

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.

  1. The criminal offence they were charged with.

We can confirm that some relevant information is held by West Midlands Police. However, we are withholding that information since we consider that the exemptions outlined below apply to it.

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 the information is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions

Section 30 (1) (a) (b) (c) (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

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

Section 40 (2) allows for personal data to be withheld where release would breach the third party’s data protection rights.  It would be unfair to release this information where any person could be identified from the data and in this case the right to privacy outweighs any public interest in release

Harm

To reveal details of an investigation before those investigations are complete could interfere with the investigative process. In addition 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 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. Providing details of an investigation could help to ensure that authorities do not overlook issues which they should investigate.

There is a clear public interest in ensuring that public authorities do not act outside their authority by investigating matters which fall outside their remit. By providing information in relation to investigations, this should provide the necessary safeguards and satisfy the public interest in this matter.

Considerations Favouring Non-Disclosure

The interest of the public is best served by the non-disclosure of information which adversely affects the reputation of an individual e.g. whether they are involved in a police investigation.

The public must be confident that West Midlands Police are committed to ensuring that information provided by them will only be used for appropriate purposes and that the confidentiality of any information given will be maintained. Therefore they should be assured that West Midlands Police would never provide information that would breach confidentiality.

Where 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 regarding an investigation could jeopardise future police operations and compromise the future prevention and detection of crime.

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. West Midlands Police need 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 provide information that may be of assistance to offenders/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.

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.

The issues of transparency and awareness are 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.

Although providing the requested information might provide a 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 withholding the information. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could compromise the future law enforcement role of the force.

As recommended as good practice by the Information Commissioner’s Office a version of this response may be published on the West Midlands Police website.

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