Fuel Thefts (5057_14)

Request

Please could I request the following under the Freedom of Information Act with regard to thefts, or attempted thefts, from underground fuel pipelines:

1)      a) How many thefts have been reported, in each of the last five years, from buried fuel pipelines (petrol/diesel) in your force’s area?

b) How many attempted thefts have been reported, in each of the last five years, from buried fuel pipelines (petrol/diesel) in your force’s area?

2)      How many individuals have been arrested, in each of the last five years, on suspicion of conspiracy to steal fuel?

3)      Of those arrests listed in question 2, how many convictions have been made?

For reference, here is a link to a website offering a map of the buried pipeline network:

http://www.linewatch.co.uk/pipeline_network.php

Response

Q1 a and b – There have been 5 reported thefts of fuel from buried fuel pipelines in the West Midlands Police force area in the last five years.  We have had no attempt thefts reported for the same time period for this offence.

Q2 and 3 – Three individuals were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to steal fuel within the last five years within the West Midlands Police area, all three were charged, one of which received a prison sentence.

In respect of Question 1 parts a and b, West Midlands Police can neither confirm nor deny that they hold any other information relevant to your request by virtue of the following exemptions:

Section 24(2) National Security

Section 30(3) Investigations

Section 24 National Security

(1)Information which does not fall within section 23(1) is exempt information if exemption from section 1(1)(b) is required for the purpose of safeguarding national security.

(2) The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that, exemption from section 1(1)(a) is required for the purpose of safeguarding national security.

Section 24(2) is a qualified exemption and as such there is a requirement to evidence any harm confirmation or denial that any other information is held as well as consider the public interest.

Section 30(3) is class based and qualified and there is a requirement to consider the public interest to ensure neither confirming nor denying any other information is held is appropriate.

West Midlands Police can neither confirm nor deny that it holds any other information relevant to this request, as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply by virtue of the following exemptions:

Section 24(2) National Security

Section 30(3) Investigations (by virtue of Section 30(2))

Section 30 is a class based qualified exemption and there is a requirement to consider the public interest to ensure neither confirming or denying any other information is held is appropriate.

Section 24 is a prejudice based qualified exemption and there is a requirement to evidence the prejudice (harm) in disclosure and consider the public interest to ensure neither confirming or denying that any other information is held is appropriate.

Harm in Confirming or Denying that any other Information is held

Any release under the Freedom of Information Act is a disclosure to the world, not just to the individual making the request.  To confirm or not that any other information is held pertinent to this request would undermine the security of the national infrastructure.

In this case, the impact of confirming or denying whether any other information is held relevant to this request has potential to undermine and highlight areas that may be deemed to be vulnerable. The information could highlight to those with criminal intent areas which could be targeted to affect the UK’s national infrastructure by targeting its fuel pipelines.

To confirm or deny whether any other information is held would be extremely useful to those involved in terrorist activity as it would enable them to identify areas which may be vulnerable to attack by criminal networks in order to adversely affect the national infrastructure.

Public Interest Considerations

Section 24

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming that information is held

The public is entitled to know how public funds are spent and resources are distributed within an area of policing.  To confirm whether any other information exists relating to thefts or attempted thefts of underground fuel pipelines would better inform the public how the Police are protecting national pipelines which, if attacked or large quantities stolen would affect local communities. In the current financial climate of cuts and with the call for transparency of public spending this would enable improved public debate.

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming or denying that any other information is held

Security measures are put in place to protect the community that we serve.  As evidenced within the harm to confirm whether any other information is held pertinent to this request would highlight to terrorists and individuals intent on carrying out criminal activity who and what information is shared with other forces, commercial businesses and law enforcement agencies.

Taking into account the current security climate within the United Kingdom, no information (such as the citing of an exemption which confirms any other information pertinent to this request is held, or conversely, stating ‘no information held’) which may aid a terrorist should be disclosed.  To what extent this information may aid a terrorist is unknown, but it is clear that it will have an impact on a force’s ability to monitor terrorist activity.

Irrespectively of what other information is or isn’t held, the public entrust the Police Service to make appropriate decisions with regard to their safety and protection and the only way of reducing risk is to be cautious with what is placed into the public domain.

The cumulative affect of terrorists gathering information from various sources would be even more impactive when linked to other information gathered about terrorism.  The more information disclosed over time will give a more detailed account of the tactical infrastructure of not only a force area but also the country as a whole.

Any incident that results from such a disclosure would by default affect National Security.

Section 30

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming that information is held

Confirming or denying that any information exists relevant to this request would lead to a better informed public demonstrating that West Midlands Police appropriately investigates thefts of fuel or attempted thefts of fuel from underground pipelines.  Confirmation or denial would also highlight that police resources are being utilised to focus on criminal offending.

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) – neither confirming nor denying that information is held

Confirming or denial that information is held in this case would highlight that there may be investigations ongoing in order to prevent and/ or detect this type of specialised crime. This in itself could highlight to offenders that they are on the Police radar in the West Midlands Police area which may mean that they then go underground to avoid detection. Alternatively, it may highlight those who are not on the Police radar and subsequently mean that they continue to plan and commit their offence.

Balancing Test

The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying whether any other information exists.  The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve.  As part of that policing purpose, the protection of investigations that affect the national infrastructure of the UK is of paramount importance.

Weakening the mechanisms used to monitor and investigate any type of criminal activity, and specifically terrorist activity would place the security of the country at an increased level of danger.

In addition, any disclosure by West Midlands Police that places the security of the country at risk, no matter how generic, would undermine any trust or confidence individuals have in us, therefore, at this moment in time it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test favours neither confirming nor denying that any other information is held.

No inference can be drawn from this refusal that information is or isn’t held.

Attachments

No attachments

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed